CHICAGO – Leave it to the Twins. These days, they can hit a triple and turn it into a bad play.
Technically, Eduardo Nunez’s three-bagger was scored a double, and even Nunez admitted he wished he had stayed on second. Because with Wednesday night’s game still in doubt, with the Twins setting up a scoring opportunity to try to take the lead, Nunez’s overaggressiveness turned into a costly mistake, one of several that led to an ugly 9-6 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Ricky Nolasco kept the game close for five innings despite giving up the most home runs he’s ever surrendered as a Twin, and Brian Dozier extended his franchise-record streak of games with an extra-base hit to 10 in a row with a double. Even Nunez led off the game with a home run, and finished a triple — yeah, there’s irony there — short of a cycle.
But The Twins left runners stranded in scoring position in seven of the nine innings, and squandered an opportunity to run their winning streak to three.
And Nunez accepted the blame for the most obvious mistake.
“I see the play,” Nunez said of his fifth-inning near homer, “but I don’t see [Kurt] Suzuki.”
With the White Sox holding a 2-1 lead in the fifth, Suzuki led off with a single, then held tight on a Byron Buxton flyout. Then Nunez smacked a 1-2 fastball from James Shields and the ball appeared headed for the right field party porch. Instead, right fielder Adam Eaton made a leaping, albeit unsuccessful, effort to catch the ball, and it ricocheted toward the infield.
Big break? Scoring opportunity?
Nope. Trouble for the Twins.
Nunez sped up, rounded second and headed for third. Suzuki, who waited halfway to second to make sure the ball wasn’t caught, could barely stay in front of his teammate.
“Kurt has to be somewhat protective of the catch. Nunie’s focus was more on where the ball was rolling than the runner in front of him, and we got into a tough spot there,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “So we ended up losing an opportunity.”
They did because, as both players approached third base about 20 feet apart, third base coach Gene Glynn had no choice but to wave Suzuki home. “He’s going to end up with two guys on third base if he holds Kurt,” Molitor said. So Suzuki kept going, even as Eaton tracked down the ball and threw it to the plate. The ball beat him by several steps, and Suzuki surrendered as he was tagged out.
Nunez actually thought Glynn’s windmill motion was for him, and rounded third by about 20 feet before noticing the play in front of him. He scrambled back to third — the play was ruled a double on a rules technicality — but a second-and-third-with-one-out scoring opportunity had deflated into a two-out chance, and the inning ended on a Robbie Grossman fly ball.
“Those can be momentum changers,” Molitor said of the mistake. “It went from being a good, close game to all of a sudden trailing by eight runs.”
That’s because, denied any run support, Nolasco finally gave up four runs in the sixth inning, and the bullpen gave up a couple more. The Twins rallied for five runs in the ninth and brought the tying run to the plate, but the chance was gone, leaving Molitor clearly disappointed.
“It’s not like you’re expecting to go out and reel off a long winning streak,” he shrugged. “It’d be great if you did that, but you just want to see more consistency.”