A handful of extras from a tight, playoff-intense ballgame:
Trailing 3-1 in the eighth inning, the Indians made a couple of non-aggressive decisions that ended up helping the Twins. Chris Johnson and Jose Ramirez led off the inning with back-to-back singles, chasing Ervin Santana from the game in favor of Glen Perkins. Indians manager Terry Francona sent Mike Aviles into the game to pinch-run for Johnson, then signaled leadoff hitter Jason Kipnis to bunt.
It was an interesting decision, considering Kipnis is one of the Indians’ most dangerous hitters and rookie Francisco Lindor and backup Michael Martinez were due up next, and the Twins weren’t sure that would be Francona’s move. “I wasn’t sure if Kipnis was going to swing or bunt, [so] we were conservative about our defense,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “But we got the out, which helped.”
It did, and what came next may have helped even more. Lindor drove a fly ball to right field, and Torii Hunter backed up slightly to catch it. Aviles broke for the plate, but stopped after about five steps and retreated back to third as Hunter threw home. There’s no way to know, but Hunter’s throw was slightly up the first-base line, so it appeared Aviles would have scored. That’s what Molitor thought, anyway.
“I think it was probably a fairly good proposition to score the run, but when you’re trailing by two and you’re a base hit away from tying the game, it’s a tough call for the third-base coach,” in this case Mike Sarbaugh, Molitor said. “I wasn’t sure what he was going to do with him there, to be honest, but I think they [decided] to take another shot at a base hit.”
Didn’t happen. Martinez grounded into the hole at second base, and Brian Dozier made a diving stop to get the out and end the inning, the Twins’ two-run cushion intact.
Perkins, by the way, appears to be himself again, working out of that eighth inning on just six pitches, all strikes. Molitor said he tries to avoid bringing Perkins in with runners on base, but it worked out well this time. And the back problems that sidelined him for much of August and September?
“He tells me the back [injury] is a thing of the past,” Molitor said. “I don’t think he has any lingering symptoms. I think he feels as good as he has in awhile.”
That means that Molitor is free to use Perkins, Kevin Jepsen and Trevor May, when healthy, in any late-inning situation that might come up. “It certainly gives us options,” the manager said.
The Twins hadn’t beaten Danny Salazar since 2013. On Wednesday — weather permitting, since a daylong rain is in the forecast — they will get a chance to face another longtime nemesis, Corey Kluber, who has allowed four runs in three starts against Minnesota this season.
It’s a rematch of the Aug. 9 game, Kluber vs. Phil Hughes, in which Kluber pitched a one-hitter and Hughes injured his back. The Twins’ righthander is only now healthy enough to pitch again, and Wednesday will be his second start. How long can the Twins count on him pitching?
“We’re going to encourage him to go as long and as hard as he can. We don’t want him to finesse anything, just go as long as you can and when you’re done, you’re done,” Molitor said. “We could push him to 75 pitches. ‘Give us what you have and hopefully you keep us in the game till we get you out of there.’ “
A funny moment during the game: Between innings TC Bear climbed on the Twins’ dugout carrying a sign reading “Willkommen, Max,” in honor of rookie outfielder Max Kepler, a native of Germany. The sign was shown on the scoreboard, which then switched to a shot of Kepler sitting in the dugout. Oh, wait — that was Tyler Duffey, who looked understandably confused by the confusion. Duffey helpfully pointed out Kepler sitting a few seats further down the dugout.