Under manager Paul Molitor, the Twins pay close attention to what the numbers say — where batters tend to hit the ball, when pitchers should be removed, which hitters victimize which pitchers.
The numbers misled the Twins on Tuesday.
Mike Pelfrey got 20 outs against the White Sox, but given an opportunity to get 21, gave up the go-ahead run instead on a ball hit where it wasn’t supposed to be, and the Twins lost for the third time in four games, 6-2 at Target Field.
“We’re a shifting team, and it’s worked out pretty well for us the first few months,” said second baseman Brian Dozier, who went 0-for-4 against White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija. “I felt like they hit it exactly where we weren’t playing tonight.”
Chief among the statistical outliers was Melky Cabrera, who tends to hit the ball toward deep shortstop, according to Molitor. But with the score tied and Jose Abreu on second base in the seventh inning, Cabrera belted a sinker that curled into the heart of the plate straight up the middle, just out of Eduardo Nunez’s reach, giving Chicago its first lead of the game.
“I had some pretty successful at-bats against Melky,” said Pelfrey, who struck out the veteran outfielder twice, then gave up a cue-shot double to him that landed on the foul line. “I just didn’t come through. I appreciate the faith and the trust, but I left the ball over the middle.”
Oh yes, the faith and trust. Molitor said before the game that he trusts his decisions and tries not to second-guess them, traits that will come in handy on nights like this one. Pelfrey wasn’t as sharp as he has been in most of his past half-dozen starts, but he was still tied, 2-2, after getting two quick outs in the seventh. His pitch count was at 102, but he needed only one more out to walk off as a success.
He never got it. Abreu rocketed a 96-mph sinker into right field for a single. With lefthanded-hitting Adam LaRoche, 11-for-18 with five walks in his career against Pelfrey, coming to the plate, Molitor stuck with his 31-year-old veteran.
Sure enough, this was the time when the numbers were correct: Three quick balls to LaRoche put him in a hole, and though Pelfrey worked the count to 3-2, a low sinker for ball four put him aboard, too.
Molitor came out of the dugout and huddled with the pitcher.
“I thought [Cabrera] was still a pretty good matchup to try to get out of the inning. So I just asked him how he was doing,” Molitor said. “He said, ‘Still good.’ So I said, ‘Let’s get this guy out and try to find a way to get you a win.’ Didn’t work out that way.”
Nope. Pelfrey’s first pitch to Cabrera was a ball, and the second, a 94-mph sinker, rifled past him on its way to center field.
“I like honest answers. He was confident about how he was doing, and I had a good feeling he was going to be able to get a ground ball,” Molitor said. “We were just hoping it was going to be where we could make a play.”
The White Sox added runs in the eighth and ninth against the Twins bullpen, more than enough since the Twins were handcuffed by Samardzija, who allowed two runs in seven innings to collect his first win since May 22 — the last time he faced Minnesota.
“You get a lead off him, you know you’re probably going to have to find a way to hold on, because he gets stronger as the game goes on,” Molitor said. “Not enough offense for us.”