DETROIT – There are always unexpected developments during a season, and Eduardo Escobar hitting a career-high 20 home runs definitely is one of those.
The Twins infielder belted a three-run homer during the Twins’ five-run sixth inning that helped them put the Tigers away 10-4 on Sunday. Escobar does not hold anything back when he swings, but he’s given the Twins unexpected power as Miguel Sano recovers from a stress reaction in his left shin.
In 34 games since Sano was injured, Escobar has hit nine home runs.
“The 20 home runs is surprising,” Escobar said, “but I’m working hard all year. It’s different when you have the opportunity to play every day. I feel like Jesus has blessed me.”
With Sano not expected to be available if the Twins advance to the wild-card round, it looks like Escobar is going to be their guy at third base.
“For a switch-hitting guy who can play multiple positions and also hit 20 home runs, it is pretty impressive,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “He’s always had sneaky pop, righthanded and lefthanded. He’s not just a slap hitter, he’s got some thump.”
Outfielder Max Kepler spent the morning receiving treatment for a sore left hip he suffered on Saturday while fielding a single and throwing the ball back to the infield.
“They are saying that it is just a bruise,” Kepler said, “and I believe that. I would not say it is comfortable but it is manageable.”
After testing it before the game, Kepler said he was available off the bench.
It was an odd play, as Kepler fielded Miguel Cabrera’s single, left his feet during his follow through and fell to the ground. Many outfielders do that, especially when charging in on a ball. Somehow, Kepler came up injured.
“I’m optimistic nothing serious is going on there,” manager Paul Molitor said.
He still wasn’t sure if Kepler would be ready to play Tuesday in Cleveland.
“I hope so,” Molitor said. “He likes that park.”
Tough break for Wilson
The sound was familiar to Molitor.
Joe Mauer’s line drive in the eighth inning on Saturday — measured at 103.8 miles per hour — struck Tigers righthander Alex Wilson 3 inches above his right ankle, causing a fractured lower leg.
It reminded Molitor of the game he was in July 5,1996, at the Metrodome, when a line drive off his bat struck Kansas City’s Mark Gubicza in the leg, breaking it and ending his season.
“It was low, it was loud,” Molitor said of Saturday’s play.
Wilson spoke with reporters on Sunday while sitting on a sofa in the Tigers clubhouse, his right lower leg in a hard cast.
“I should be good to go by mid-December,” he said.
Mauer reached out to Wilson, sending him a message, to express his concern.
“You never want to see that happen,” Mauer said.
A reporter mentioned to Wilson how surprising it was that a hit by Mauer struck him, since the first baseman normally hits everything to the left.
“I feel almost just as bad for him.” Wilson said. “He’s like the nicest guy in baseball.”
The Twins have decided against pitching Kyle Gibson on short rest and will go with a rotation of Bartolo Colon, Adalberto Mejia and Ervin Santana for the three games in Cleveland this week.
Molitor was considering moving Gibson into Wednesday’s spot and skipping Mejia. That would have given Gibson, 7-3 with a 3.58 ERA since the All-Star break, a chance to make two more starts. The second one would come on the final game of the regular season, on short rest.
Instead, Molitor has opted to stick with his normal rotation. Santana remains in line to start the wild-card game on Tuesday.