After the week Brian Dozier has already had, with the walk-off home run Monday and the go-ahead homer on Wednesday and the entire state of Minnesota making videos to get people to vote him onto the AL All-Star team, it occurred to Paul Molitor that Thursday night’s ninth-inning, two-out, crowd-roaring, tying-run-at-the-plate at-bat was just another elaborate campaign promotion.
“Yeah, you’re kind of hoping for a little magic there,” Molitor said. “Best-case scenario, he hits one out and ties the game.”
Oh well. Two game-winners will have to be enough.
Dozier flied out, Detroit hung on for a 4-2 victory, and the #VoteDozier movement was deprived of the ultimate show-stopper, mostly because the other second baseman on the field, a four-time All-Star himself, stole the spotlight with his own big hits.
Ian Kinsler bashed Mike Pelfrey’s second pitch nearly 400 feet, then smashed Pelfrey’s 110th and final pitch only a couple of feet shorter, providing just about all the offense the Tigers would need. The first was a homer, the last a double that bounced off the padding atop the wall in left-center, and both, Pelfrey said, were more the pitcher’s doing than the hitter’s.
“Belt-high down the middle,” the righthander said of both mistakes. “He did what he’s supposed to with those.”
He did, which was a shame for the Twins, because Pelfrey did what he was supposed to with the great majority of the other 108 pitches. Bouncing back from two short starts in Cincinnati and Kansas City, Pelfrey shrugged off Kinsler’s leadoff homer — the 22nd of his career, by the way, 11th-most in history and one fewer than Molitor hit — to face the minimum 15 batters over the next five innings. Even the run he gave up in the sixth was a scratch run, produced by two singles and a fielder’s choice.
“He looked like he didn’t let that first batter rattle him too much,” Molitor said. “He just looked like he was more in control, whether it was fastball command, using his split effectively, or a breaking ball to get ahead of hitters. He just had a good combination working. Threw it hard enough, that’s for sure.”
Trouble was, David Price was throwing it … well, soft enough. The Tigers All-Star lefthander has a more-than-worthy fastball, but that’s not what foiled the Twins.
“His changeup was probably his best pitch tonight. Miguel [Sano] got kind of a little bit of a taste of that,” Molitor said, referring to his rookie cleanup hitter’s three-strikeout night, his first game without a hit. “Guys just couldn’t recognize that pitch. Either they swung over the top of it or they hit it off the end of the bat. With baserunners on there, he really seemed to step it up.”
Sure did, over and over, but it’s hard to know how much of that was Price. Leaving runners on second and third base has been a recurring theme for the Twins lately. This time, they went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, the only exceptions being Trevor Plouffe and Torii Hunter’s run-scoring singles in the fifth inning. Hunter’s RBI was the 758th of his Twins career, tying him with Gary Gaetti for sixth on the franchise’s all-time list.
The game was 2-2 in the eighth, and Molitor, impressed with how well Pelfrey was still throwing, elected to stay with him, even after Mark Krauss led off with a single and Anthony Gose doubled off the center field wall. That might have been the go-ahead run, but Aaron Hicks retrieved the ball and got it to Eduardo Nunez, who whirled and threw out Krauss at the plate.
“I wasn’t surprised. It was a tie game, they want to take a lead,” Nunez said. “So I know they’re going to push it, push it hard. That’s why we anticipated the play before it happened.”
Jose Iglesias then grounded out to a drawn-in infield, holding Gose at third and setting up Kinsler’s big at-bat. The crowd was on its feet — “I live on adrenalin,” Pelfrey said — but quieted quickly when Kinsler rocketed another pitch off the wall, putting Detroit ahead for good.