Byung Ho Park isn’t an emotional ballplayer, he says. He likes to stay calm and low-key on the diamond. But with nine losses worth of frustration built up, with a season-opening slump that has infected him and all his teammates finally broken, Park couldn’t help himself Friday.
“When I got to second base and saw Trevor [Plouffe] coming home and scoring that [go-ahead] run, without thinking I threw my hands in the air and let out a little scream right there,” Park said via a translator. “It just came.”
And who could blame him? Park’s eighth-inning double into the corner scored Plouffe and delivered the Twins a 5-4 victory over the Angels, their first after a franchise-worst 0-9 start to the season.
“It was a good win. It wasn’t an easy win. … We battled back” after twice falling behind Los Angeles, Plouffe said. “A win like this, I think will definitely get us going.”
Their pulse growing alarmingly faint, even with just a fraction of the season gone, the Twins proved that they are not quite finished yet. They took a brief lead, clawed its way back when it slipped away and finally earned their first dance party of the season, starring the South Korean rookie.
“When I was stepping into the clubhouse, I heard the music playing loud,” Park said, “so that really made me feel good.”
Better than his victory dance, apparently. “I only got a glimpse,” manager Paul Molitor said, “and that was plenty.”
Eduardo Nunez collected three hits, and probably twice that many bruises, in sparking the Twins from the leadoff spot, where he filled in for the slumping Brian Dozier for a night. He doubled home a run in the seventh inning, but also was hit on the elbow by a pitch. And in the fourth inning, Nunez took the brunt of a fearsome collision with Miguel Sano in right field. Hit in the face by an elbow, struck on the knee by Sano’s knee, Nunez laid on the ground for a couple of minutes, while Joe Mauer picked up the ricocheted ball and threw out Yunel Escobar at third base.
“I was fearing the worst, because it sure didn’t look good live,” Molitor said. “It’s an easy play to tear something in your knee or ankle. We got lucky there.”
The luck was going both ways all night. Tommy Milone was brilliant through the first five innings, but he slipped in the sixth, when Carlos Perez hit a leadoff single and went to second when the ball glanced off center fielder Eddie Rosario’s glove. A sacrifice moved Perez to third, and he scored easily on Escobar’s double, giving the Angels what felt like an insurmountable 1-0 lead.
But the Twins did something they have avoided during their wretched 0-9 start: They struck back. After Nunez was hit by a pitch, he moved to second on a grounder, then tied the score when Miguel Sano laced a double to left — ending a streak of 19 consecutive hitless at-bats by the Twins with runners in scoring position. When Plouffe followed with a double over Mike Trout’s head in center, the Twins owned their first lead since the ninth inning Sunday at Kansas City, albeit just 2-1.
It didn’t last long.
“We squandered the lead,” Molitor said. “I believe we had it about five minutes.”
When Milone took the mound to face the heart of the Los Angeles order for a third time, it didn’t go well. Albert Pujols launched a changeup deep into the right-field seats, tying the score. After C.J. Cron walked, Kole Calhoun crushed one even farther, turning the Twins’ brief and rare advantage into a 4-2 Angels lead.
Then the improbable happened: the Twins rallied again. Rosario drew a one-out walk off Greg Mahle, just the free-swinging outfielder’s second walk of the season. Two batters later, Nunez doubled to left — bringing his batting average to a crisp .778 (7-for-9) for the year — and Rosario hustled around to score from first. When Mauer followed with a single, Nunez scored to make it 4-4.