Three bonus items from the Twins’ second straight (if far less dramatic) win over the Tigers:
Torii Hunter walked up and down the dugout in the sixth inning, flexing his bicep and bragging about reaching the third deck in left field with a tremendous home run. He needn’t have bothered; the Twins were already impressed. “They kid him about [having] no pop, but the numbers don’t support that theory,” manager Paul Molitor said. “I watch him in batting practice — he’s got a really good routine to get himself ready. The distance is still there.”
In fact, it’s rare. Brian Dozier said he’s only seen three players reach the third deck in a game: Josh Willingham, Jose Bautista and Nelson Cruz. “And they’re a lot younger than him,” Dozier said of his 39-year-old teammate. “That’s granddad pop.”
The blast was partly out of frustration, Hunter said, “for hitting the ball hard with nothing to show” for it. “The best thing you can do is hit it out of the park so they can’t catch it.”
Hunter later made a diving catch in the outfield. Which was he prouder of, the blast or the dive? Silly question.
“Definitely third deck,” Hunter said. “I told all the guys, you’ve got to have kids in college to hit balls like that.”
Amid the Twins’ five straight hits in the second inning, Aaron Hicks laid down a perfect bunt to load the bases. In the sixth inning, Danny Santana bunted, too, and was called safe at first, though the call was overturned by replay. A day earlier, Joe Mauer collected his second bunt single of the season.
Looks like the Twins are buying into Molitor’s suggestion that they look for opportunities to take advantage of the defense.
“I think so,” Molitor said. “It’s good to see. A lot of times, you look at rallies, sometimes a bunt can start it, or be in the midst of it.”
Hicks was given the bunt sign on the first pitch he saw, but took a ball. Then Molitor gave him the option of swinging, and “he decided to put it down. It couldn’t have been any more perfect,” Molitor said of Hicks’ second bunt hit of the season. “Danny got a little anxious, I think, but still made it close. Up and away is a tough pitch to get down on the first-base side, probably a good pitch to take. But guys are trying things.”
With two runners on and no outs in the seventh inning, Paul Molitor removed Blaine Boyer, a right-handed reliever, and signaled for Brian Duensing, a lefty. Which seemed normal, until you consider: The batter due up was Yoenis Cespedes, a right-handed power hitter.
But there was good reason for the opposite-handed switch, Molitor said.
One was Cespedes’ oddly reversed platoon split; the Cuban outfielder bats only .188 against left-handed pitching this season. And Molitor also felt that the Tigers were getting a little too comfortable facing the Twins’ righthanders — Victor Martinez’s home run, as well as four other Tigers hits were to right field at that point — and needed a different look.
“J.D. [Martinez] and Cespedes and Castellanos have a really good approach against righthanders,” the manager said. “With Phil [Hughes, the right-handed starter], we saw how they kind of wore out right field, so we thought we’d mix it up a little bit with Duensing.”
Good idea. Cespedes reached awkwardly, and futilely, for an outside slider to strike out, and Duensing then got what might have been a double-play ball against Jefry Marte, except the exchange was bobbled at second base by Brian Dozier, allowing a run to score.