CHICAGO — What’s that? You want more than 1,000 words of extra stuff about the Twins’ 9-6 loss tonight? Came to the right place:
I wrote about Eduardo Nunez’s big mistake in the game story tonight, but didn’t get into the fact that the play included an interesting and rare scorer’s ruling. Under better circumstances, it may have cost Nunez a shot at his first career cycle. The ruling was correct under MLB rules — but inaccurately reflected what happened.
It came in what Paul Molitor felt may have been the critical sequence of the game, considering the Twins trailed just 2-1 at the time.
Kurt Suzuki led off the inning with a single, and stayed put as Byron Buxton flew out. Then Nunez, who had already homered and singled, came to the plate and drove what looked like another home run to the right field fence. But the ball struck the top of the fence, perhaps due to Adam Eaton’s leaping attempt to catch it.
As the ball bounced away from Eaton, Suzuki began hustling around the bases, with Nunez closing fast right behind him. Suzuki was waved home, perhaps because Nunez was already bearing down on third base himself, and he arrived at the plate several steps after Eaton’s throw. Nunez had already rounded third and was perhaps 30 feet down the line when he realized he had miscalculated, and scrambled back to third base as Suzuki gave up and allowed himself to be tagged by catcher Dioner Navarro.
The official scorer ruled the play a double, with Nunez advancing to third on the throw home — a judgment that seemed ridiculous on its face, because Nunez was already nearing third base when Eaton threw the ball. Nunez never had any intention of stopping at second, throw or not.
But the official scorer, Bob Rosenberg, pointed out rule 10.7(b), and the interpretation that accompanies it. And the rule specifically and unambiguously applies to this situation, despite the fact that the circumstances don’t really fit.
“Do not credit the batter with a three-base hit when a preceding runner is put out at the plate, or would have been but for an error,” the rules interpretation reads.
Not much room for nuance there. So it cost Nunez a triple, and mean that he still needed one, rather than a double, to complete the cycle.
Brian Dozier had hit four home runs in his past three games. So naturally, he figured, it was the perfect time to bunt.
In the third inning, with Nunez on third and two outs, Dozier came to the plate against James Shields, and had an idea.
“Shields isn’t the best at fielding bunts, especially to his back [left] side. [White Sox third baseman Tyler] Saladino is a good friend of mine, and he was playing even,” Dozier explained. “On the next pitch he backed up all the way to a grass, so it was kind of a no-brainer.”
Only trouble is, Dozier squared around and committed to the bunt, and Shields delivered a fastball — high and tight. “I went into protect mode,” Dozier said, “and the ball went straight to him.” Shields easily fielded the ball and flipped to first base to end the threat.
Kevin Jepsen had not pitched in five days, as the Twins try to figure out how to get their former, if temporary, closer back on track. Molitor decided an 8-1 deficit was the right time — but the veteran reliever had yet another rough outing.
Todd Frazier bashed Jepsen’s first pitch, a 94-mph fastball, into the left-center gap and it rolled to the wall for a double. Dioner Navarro followed with a single, and right away, Jepsen was in trouble.
“I’m trying to look for spots to get him in there so he can try to work his way back, take steps one at a time,” Molitor said. “He says he felt pretty good tonight, but obviously we didn’t see great results.”
Nope, though it could have been worse. J.B. Shuck lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Frazier, but Jepsen was able to get out of the inning without any more runs. Still, it was the third straight outing that the righthander was scored upon, and the 15th time in 32 outings this season. His ERA rose to 6.37.
“We’ve got to find times to get him out there,” Molitor said. “You’re not going to figure it out sitting every day, so we’ll keep looking for spots to bring him along.”
— The Twins extended their streak to 13 consecutive runs scored via home runs, a 10-homer stretch dating back to Saturday, until their five-run ninth-inning rally that included no homers.
— The Twins had been 0-for-20 this season with the bases loaded and two outs, but that ugly streak is over. Sure, the Twins’ ninth-inning comeback didn’t mean much, but Max Kepler delivered a two-out, two-run double, meaning the Twins are now 1-21 in that situation.
— One night after Kyle Gibson improved to 4-0 at U.S. Cellular Field, Ricky Nolasco fell to 0-4 in this ballpark.
— Tyler Saladino stole second base in the sixth inning off Twins reliever Michael Tonkin. It was the ninth stolen base given up by the Twins when Tonkin is pitching this season, tying him with Tampa Bay’s Dana Eveland for the most steals off a reliever in the American League.
— Juan Centeno pinch-hit for Joe Mauer amid the Twins’ rally in the ninth, but it had nothing to do with Mauer, just the circumstance, Molitor said. The score was 9-2 at the time, and “I thought that the odds were [long] of us putting up an eight-spot in the ninth inning. I just wanted to get Juan an at-bat.” He grounded out, but drove in a run.
— The victory was a major success, and undoubtedly a big relief, for Shields, who had performed dismally since being acquired from San Diego on June 4. Shields had allowed at least five runs in each of his first four starts for the White Sox, and his AL ERA entering the game was 15.80. But after facing the Twins for the first time since July 2014? That ERA is now just 11.07. It’s a start. Shields was booed after allowing Nunez’s homer to lead off the game, and cheered as he strode off the mound midway through the seventh inning.
— Shortly after the game ended, the White Sox optioned reliever Matt Purke, a lefthander who gave up two runs in the ninth inning, to Class AAA Charlotte.