CHICAGO – Eduardo Nunez caught all three outs in the fourth inning of Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the White Sox, and for every one, the fans sitting in left field yelled at him as the ball came down, then mock-cheered when he made the catch.
That’s the price you pay when you let one drop.
Nunez, making his first start of the season, and only his 17th career start in the outfield, roamed to the foul line in the second inning, put his glove up to make an easy catch of Micah Johnson’s routine fly — and watched in horror as it glanced off his glove and rolled to the wall.
“I think I closed my glove too soon,” the 27-year-old Dominican utilityman said. “I made a mistake. I just missed it, nothing more than that.”
Nunez’s mistake, a three-base error when Johnson hustled around the bases, seemed to set the tone for the day, because two batters later, Eduardo Escobar made a similar mistake. Escobar had erased Johnson a moment earlier by fielding a sharp ground ball and throwing Johnson out at the plate, but when Melky Cabrera lifted a medium pop fly into shallow left, Escobar circled under it, opened his glove, and let it bounce off the webbing onto the turf for another error.
“Escobar, I’ve never seen him have any issues with popups,” manager Paul Molitor said. “I don’t think there’s a lot you can tell people when they drop fly balls.”
Still, the Twins escaped without allowing a run. And another misplay two innings later didn’t cost them, either.
The White Sox had two runners on base and no outs when Adam LaRoche skied a popup back by Chicago’s dugout. Kurt Suzuki tossed his mask away, ran to the on-deck circle, and then didn’t close his glove around the ball. It wasn’t ruled an error, but gave LaRoche another chance, though Phil Hughes killed the rally with two strikeouts and a pop fly that Danny Santana did catch.
“The one Suzuki dropped was tough. It was blowing towards the dugout,” Molitor said. “Phil had to get at least three extra outs today. … It was just kind of strange to see it happen three times in a game.”
Nunez said he apologized to Hughes, but both know sometimes things happen in baseball. “We’re human,” Nunez said. “I catch everything the rest of the day.”
And he did it with hecklers in his ear.
“They were happy,” Nunez said with a smile. “They say, ‘Thank you, Nunez!’ ”
The Twins bullpen has allowed 10 runs so far this season, and Blaine Boyer has given up six of them.
That’s three times as many as he gave up all spring, when he so impressed the Twins, he made the team as a non-roster player.
No, he doesn’t understand it, either.
“I don’t feel anything different at all. I feel really good, actually,” Boyer said after facing four batters and giving up three singles and a home run Sunday, turning a tight 3-2 game into a 6-2 flop. “I wish I did [feel different]. I wish there was something I could point to, but there’s just not.”
Molitor hoped Boyer could become a reliable seventh-inning pitcher, a bridge between the starter and late-inning specialist Casey Fien and closer Glen Perkins. But for the second straight day, Boyer entered a close game and gave up runs. Saturday, he gave up the tiebreaking run; Sunday, it was two ground balls up the middle — though not hit especially hard — and then a long home run to Gordon Beckham.
“Blaine, he’s trying so hard. He had such a good spring, but he’s just catching too much of the plate and guys are making him pay right now,” Molitor said. “He’s added pitches to help him with left-handers, but he’s trying to find a way into that groove that allowed him to have so much success down there in Florida, and it just hasn’t happened for him yet.”
Fien rests shoulder
For the third straight day, Fien was not available to pitch, but the stiffness in his shoulder has improved, Molitor said. He expects the setup man to be cleared to pitch again soon, perhaps as early as Monday.