Three more notes after the Twins climbed back to .500 on the season:
Brandon Kintzler just needed to get three outs without allowing three runs. But his job suddenly got a lot tougher.
Kintzler, called upon to nail down the Twins’ 6-3 victory, surrendered a leadoff single to Mike Mahtook, then immediately threw three pitches outside the strike zone to James McCann, who had homered earlier in the game. Just like that, the Twins’ closer was facing a dicey situation.
“The top of the order is lurking, so there’s a lot of things that are a little bit precarious,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “But he found his way back in the zone.”
Well, maybe. Even Kintzler can’t say for sure. McCann watched the 3-0 sinker go by, dropped his bat and began taking off his shin guard. Ball four, he figured.
Umpire Bruce Dreckman saw it differently.
“I haven’t looked at it yet, but I know it was close,” Kintzler said. “That was definitely a borderline pitch right there, could have gone either way. I think I’ve lost enough borderline pitches that I could get that one.”
Given another chance, Kintzler threw another sinker, and McCann grounded it to third base, a ball that Miguel Sano turned into a force out at second. The danger past, Kintzler needed only five more pitches to secure his fourth save of the season.
“It kind of wakes you up. It’s time to be aggressive instead of just nibbling,” Kintzler said.
Molitor said he’s not surprised it took his closer a few pitches to get settled. “He hasn’t pitched a lot, two outings in the past 12 or 13 days, and four days off. So there’s going to be a feel thing that’s part of getting consistency.”
Miguel Sano had a spectacular game on Friday, and he never even put a ball in play. Sano walked twice and struck out twice, but it was his defense that especially energized the Twins.
Sano charged up the third-base line in the fourth inning to turn JaCoby Jones’ three-hopper into an out, and in the eighth, he made an even better play, ranging near the pitcher’s mound to scoop and throw a dribbler by Justin Upton.
“He made great plays. The athleticism for a big man continues to impress,” Molitor said. “Those are tough plays. Not only do you have to eliminate the panic, but trust your hands. He’s got the arm to finish the play, and those are beautiful plays. I think he’s getting more confident with his defense.”
Molitor also said he’s encouraged by the way Eddie Rosario is approaching the game, not letting his slow start overwhelm him. He had a brief conversation with the outfielder last week, telling him to relax and let the game come to him.
That’s not easy for the 25-year-old, but it may be working. Rosario’s home run on Friday was to the opposite field.
“Just in general, he’s not a guy that lets the game come to him in too many aspects. He thinks he can make every play, wants to steal on every pitcher, thinks he can hit anybody,” Molitor said. “So you just try to slow him down just a tick without taking away his aggressiveness.”