Jake Cave faced the media 30 minutes after the Twins beat the Angels 7-5 on Sunday, lathered in perspiration.
No, it wasn’t from sweating out Fernando Rodney’s ninth inning, during which Rodney gave up two runs. Cave had just returned from a workout at Target Field.
That’s how the outfielder celebrated his 3-for-4 performance against Los Angeles, one that included a two-run homer in the sixth inning that turned out to be the difference in the game. There was no postgame afterglow for the 25th man on the roster, just more work to stay in the majors after being called up Saturday for the second time since May 19.
No one likes being in the up-and-down mode — just up for good.
“It’s tough, but you can’t think about it like that,” Cave said. “You just gotta stay mentally tough, and when my name is called, I gotta be ready to go.”
After striking out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning Saturday, Cave powered a 10-hit attack for the Twins, who had lost four of their previous five games. They finished 6-5 on their homestand.
It doesn’t seem like the Twins played winning ball over those 11 games. The offense disappeared in four games, and the Twins scored just three runs against Los Angeles while losing the first two games of the series. Cave and Co. then came to the rescue.
“I threw him in there [Saturday]. It was a tough spot for a young player to pinch-hit with the game on the line,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Cave. “I think obviously just being familiar with the environment and knowing how it works. He knows the ballpark a little bit better. He’s been taking good at-bats [at Rochester]. We know there’s some pop in the bat.”
With the Twins down 3-2 in the fifth, Cave delivered an RBI single to right on a changeup by Angels righthander Nick Tropeano. Ehire Adrianza followed with a shot down the right field line. When the ball scooted under outfielder’s Chris Young’s glove and rolled toward the corner, Cave scored the go-ahead run. Adrianza legged out a triple and scored on Eduardo Escobar’s double to make it 5-3.
Cave batted again in the sixth with Max Kepler on second and crushed a fastball from reliever Jim Johnson into the bullpen in left-center to give the Twins a 7-3 lead.
“You go [opposite field] today, that was impressive,” Molitor said.
Despite Rodney’s issues in the ninth, righthander Fernando Romero (3-2) got the win after limiting the Angels to two runs over five innings.
Cave, 25, joined the Twins on March 16 when they sent minor league pitcher Luis Gil to the Yankees, who had designated Cave for assignment. He made his debut May 19, homering in his second at-bat.
He returned to Rochester a few days later but was called back up Saturday, and can thank Twins starting pitchers for that. They have posted a 3.92 ERA since May 12, making Molitor comfortable with 12 pitchers and an extra position player. Molitor indicated that he plans to go with a four-man bench as long as he can.
That gives Cave a chance to show he belongs. So far, he hasn’t been overwhelmed by bigger stadiums and brighter lights.
“I can’t control what the other pitcher is gonna throw at me,” he said. “Can’t control what happens after I hit the ball. All I can control is if I play hard and I compete. I think if you do that consistently you have some success, and I think that’s what the great players have done.”