A tie game into extra innings, scoring opportunities rare and difficult to convert, 17 different pitchers used — Saturday’s 2-1 Twins victory in 12 innings must have really felt like pennant-race baseball, right, Paul Molitor?
“Uh … no,” the Twins’ manager said Sunday morning. There were moves to be made, and matchups to try to exploit or prevent. “You have to strategize about how to scratch out a run,” Molitor said. “It was fun, but my stake in the game was probably a little different than Tito’s.”
Tito is Indians manager Terry Francona, who used 10 pitchers but still came up short, missing an opportunity to open Cleveland’s lead over Detroit to 7 games. These games are important to the Indians — and this week’s visit to Detroit and New York will be critical to the Tigers and Mets, who are both one win outside a wild-card spot at the moment — so Molitor is taking the games seriously, too.
That said, he is also trying to distribute at-bats and playing time around his roster, so today’s lineup looks a little odd. Joe Mauer, still fighting sore quads, gets today off, and Miguel Sano, who is 1-for-16 (.063) with nine strikeouts in his career against Indians righthander Corey Kluber, is sitting out, too.
That opens an opportunity for James Beresford to get another start, this time at first base, and it allows Kennys Vargas to get some at-bats, too.
The Twins are 9-9 against the first-place Indians — actually, they somehow are 17-15 against the three teams atop AL divisions, and 36-74 against everyone else — and can win the season series today, if Jose Berrios can duplicate his Aug. 1 quality start against the Indians today. Berrios hasn’t had a quality start since; his ERA is 9.86 in five starts following that game, but Molitor said the Twins are committed to keeping Berrios in the rotation for the rest of the season.
Here are the lineups for today’s homestand finale: