Long day at the ballpark, thanks to the trade deadline, even though the game was only 2:23. Here are a few extras:
Paul Molitor, in announcing the assignment of Danny Santana and Jorge Polanco, made it clear he hasn’t given up on his young infielders this season, particularly Santana.
“Danny’s been battling it this year. It’s been an up-and-down season for him to this point. I wanted to make sure that he knew there’s still an opportunity for him to come back and contribute,” Molitor said after sending the 24-year-old Dominican to Class AAA Rochester. “But I haven’t been able to work him into the lineup the past week or so, and it’s not doing him any good to be on the bench.”
Molitor has been one of Santana’s biggest champions this year, constantly trying to restore his confidence and reassure him that he’s still in the team’s plans. But body language alone tells you Santana gets down on himself easily, and this year’s .218 batting average, with just four unintentional walks and 66 strikeouts in 263 plate appearances, has made that problem worse.
But the manager isn’t giving up. “He’s been putting a lot of time in with [hitting coaches Rudy Hernandez and Tom Brunansky] to try to get his swing down, especially from the left side,” Molitor said. “I told him that shortstop development has been good, for the most part. And [he should] keep working on the short game. He just needs to play and go get at-bats.”
Polanco is only 22 and is still learning the position — he played second base early in his career, but the Twins are hoping he can overcome his error-prone ways at a new position — but he still has a bright future, too, Molitor said. Polanco, who has committed 24 errors in the minors and two in the majors, was sent to Class AA Chattanooga, Molitor said, so both he and Santana can play every day.
The Twins made a trade to bolster their bullpen on Friday. But it’s their starting pitching that has let them down this week.
Tommy Milone allowed a career-high 11 hits, and the Twins went without a quality start for the sixth straight game Friday.
In seven games during this homestand so far, Twins starters have allowed 27 earned runs in 40 1/3 combined innings, a 6.02 cumulative ERA. They’ve allowed 51 total hits, too, eight of them for home runs.
Jesus Montero, called up from Class AAA Tacoma earlier in the day, extended that pattern against Milone, clobbering an 88-mph fastball into the Mariners’ bullpen in the sixth inning, a solo shot that extended Seattle’s lead to 4-1. It was the sixth home run that Milone has allowed in three starts since the All-Star break, a stretch in which he has posted an ERA of 7.98.
“They just did a good job putting the ball in play and it seemed like every ball in play fell for a hit, so I’m a little frustrated,” Milone said. “I just didn’t have it today.”
One guy who did have it was Taijuan Walker, who pitched the second one-hitter in Target Field history. (The other was Zach Stewart of the White Sox, who beat the Twins 4-0 on one hit on Sept. 5, 2011; there never has been a no-hitter in the Twins’ new park.)
“I saw enough video to know that, potentially, he can have a really good game at any time. Free and easy, high velocity,” Molitor said. “It seemed like particularly the first three or four innings, it didn’t matter what pitch he threw, he was going to hit his spot. Using his curveball to get ahead and also to finish. That little split-finger change, or whatever it was, he was throwing 91 mph.”
Miguel Sano hit a home run in the fourth inning to spoil the no-hit bid, but Sano’s first at-bat, a first-inning strikeout, was more typical of Walker’s stuff, Molitor said. “Curve, split, high heater, just bang-bang-bang,” Molitor said. “We couldn’t figure him out. He just overmatched us for nine innings.”
Sano’s defense was a popular topic after the game, since he made the best play of his major-league career thus far in the third inning, diving into foul territory to snag Franklin Gutierrez’s hot smash, then jumping up and showing off his great throwing arm to beat him to first with the throw.
But an inning later, Sano couldn’t handle a line drive off Austin Jackson’s bat, a screamer that glanced off his glove for a single. “I don’t know what the exit speed was,” Molitor said, “but it was a tough catch.” And Jesus Montero followed with an oddly spinning bouncer that hugged the third-base line and got past Sano for an RBI double.
Sano said he enjoyed playing defense, and wants to do more of it. But he knows he’ll be the designated hitter again on Saturday, when Trevor Plouffe returns from paternity leave.