OAKLAND, Calif. – The champagne was on ice, ready for the Athletics to pour it all over each other after Sunday’s game. But in the end, it was Trevor May who felt like celebrating.
May pumped his fist in satisfaction after striking out Ramon Laureano to extricate the Twins from an eighth-inning jam, then held the A’s scoreless in the ninth to preserve the Twins’ 5-1 victory. In doing so, the hard-throwing righthander also earned his first career save — and on his 29th birthday.
“It was cool. To be honest, it was more meaningful because it feels like playoff baseball here,” May said of playing before large, energized crowds over the weekend. “With the bleacher creatures, and everybody pumped up here, and them wanting to clinch today at home, it was great to be able to put that off. That’s what we were going for [Sunday], and it made it feel like a big game.”
He wouldn’t mind if it was the first of many chances to close out a game, either.
“I’ve thought about it quite a bit. If you throw in the back end of the bullpen, most guys want to close eventually,” said May, a converted starter who returned this season from Tommy John elbow surgery. “I’ve decided that if I’m going to be in the bullpen, the goal is to be throwing toward the end of games. So to be able to do it once, it’s a satisfying feeling. I thrive off it, I really enjoy it. Baseball’s meant to be fun, and this is fun for me.”
Jockeying for position
While parents and children stood in line for a postgame run-the-bases promotion, 20 Twins rookies and new staff members walked past in horse costumes. Yes, Sunday was the third and final leg of the Twins Triple Crown, this year’s edition of the baseball tradition of hazing rookies.
After two controversy-filled races in Kansas City and Detroit, with disputes over whether the winners — Jake Cave in the “Derby,” Kohl Stewart in the “Preakness” — had galloped or sprinted, the rules were changed to race-walking.
“When they changed the rules, I knew I had a chance,” Zack Littell said. “I know how to walk.”
Sure enough, Littell came from behind near the end of the race and narrowly beat fellow pitcher Andrew Vasquez at the wire. “I dug deep,” Littell joked.
After the race, the Twins clubhouse was littered with discarded costumes, as the veterans ruled that the rookies no longer had to wear them on the team’s flight home. Littell jokingly bid farewell to his horse, which he named Jim. “We found a good home for him here,” he said. “I just can’t afford to take care of a horse anymore.”
Belisle to keep playing
While Joe Mauer will wait until the season ends to decide whether he will play in 2019, the oldest player on the roster has no such timetable. Does 38-year-old Matt Belisle intend to play a 16th MLB season?
“Oh hell yes. One hundred percent,” Belisle said. “I’ve got a lot left in me.”
Belisle is coming off the worst season of his career, having been released by the Indians after posting a 5.06 ERA, then watching that mark balloon to 8.35 after the Twins picked him up in mid-June. He also spent a month on the disabled list with sore cartilage in his right knee, and tinkered with his mechanics.
Has it been a frustrating season? “I haven’t even thought about it. I’m excited about what I’m doing right now, today,” Belisle said. “I know what I’m doing and where I’m going with it.”
The “where” might be problematic, however, after such a difficult season. Belisle didn’t sign a minor league contract with the Indians until two weeks after spring training opened last February. Does he worry about finding another job?
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Belisle said. “All I know is I’m feeling good, and focusing on this team and this season.”