A couple of extra items from a rather bizarre game. Seriously, when was the last time you saw both team’s cleanup hitters lay down a bunt?
— The Twins haven’t scored many runs against Kansas City this season, just 28 in 10 games (including eight in one game). So Paul Molitor is determined to do whatever he can to manufacture runs while the Twins are here in Kauffman Stadium. That’s why when Kurt Suzuki led off the fifth inning with a double, and Joe Mauer led off the sixth with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch, Molitor asked the next hitter to move the runner to third. He left it up to the hitters — Eduardo Escobar and Trevor Plouffe — to decide how they wanted to do that.
“They always have the option of using a bunt if they don’t feel comfortable trying to hit to the right side,” Molitor said. Because of the defensive alignment and the situation, both chose to square around and bunt. The sacrifice was effective both times, though only Escobar’s eventually produced a run.
But Molitor wanted to make a bigger point after the game. “They also learned that neither of those bunts were particularly good, but they got the job done. And I hope it makes them realize that they made close plays out of not-really-good bunts,” Molitor said. “If you can get the ball into a good spot, everybody should think about it now and then. “
In Plouffe’s case, the bunt was more than a little unusual; it was the first time since Sept. 13, 1999, that a Twins cleanup hitter (Corey Koskie) had successfully executed a sacrifice bunt. Plouffe credited his speed, albeit with a smile; he timed himself on video after the game and said he reached first base in 4.2 seconds.
Joking or not, though, Plouffe said he had no problem being asked to bunt. “To get a guy on third base with one out, or possibly first and third with no outs, I’ll take that,” said Plouffe, who was out by just a step or two on the play. “That’s me trying to help the team. If I feel great against a pitcher and I see him well, I’m probably not going to do that. But it made sense.”
— Speaking of bunting, the Royals came prepared to combat the Twins’ defensive shifts with a couple bunts of their own. Mike Moustakas broke an 0-for-14 hitless streak in the first inning by laying down a bunt directly at where Plouffe would normally be playing, but it was an easy single because he had been shifted into the shortstop hole.
Three innings later, Royals cleanup hitter Eric Hosmer attacked a similar Twins shift by bunting down the third-base line, helping to create a bases-loaded threat that Kyle Gibson escaped by striking out Salvador Perez with a slider that he said wasn’t even a good one. “It was effective because he was surprised,” Gibson said.
— Glen Perkins pitched a quick ninth inning and, at 26-for-26, is now just one save away from Joe Nathan’s franchise record of 27 consecutive saves.
— Molitor was happy for Danny Santana, who bunted toward first base for a single in the third inning and tripled in a run with a blast to left-center in the sixth. It was Santana’s first multi-hit game since May 6. “He hasn’t had much success with runners in scoring position,” Molitor said. “He made sure he got a pitch that was elevated. It’s what we like to see, trying to go opposite-gap when you have those situations. It keeps you on the ball a little bit longer, and he turned it into a triple.”