I legitimately thought the Twins were going to win the game and sweep the Rangers. It would have been a solid statement. Minnesota has to settle for a series victory instead, however, as an early 4-0 lead was erased in the middle innings.
The Twins bounced Chi Chi Gonzalez around like a pinball in the second inning. Trevor Plouffe started the scoring by hitting his 16th home run of the season, a solo shot into the second deck in left field with one away. Then the bottom of the order really got involved, with Eduardo Escobar's liner just clearing Rougned Odor's (ODOR. ODOR. HA! GoT jokes.) glove at second. It looked like Escobar was hung out to dry between first and second after the throw, the Rangers trying to hot box him into an out while keeping an eye on Eddie Rosario at third, but ultimately Rosario saw a chance, too it, and slid around Chris Gimenez's phantom tag for the game's second run. Chris Herrmann and Shane Robinson then hit back-to-back doubles, bringing in Escobar and then Herrmann to push Minnesota's lead to 4-0 and effectively ruin Gonzalez's day.
For a game that seemingly had everything going the home team's way, things started to go awry in the fourth. Mitch Moreland hit a two-run homer to put Texas on the board. In the fifth the Rangers strung together a trio of two-out hits to score three runs, capped off by Moreland's double.
Minnesota would knot the game at five in the bottom of the sixth, finally forcing Gonzalez from the game when he issued walks to Escobar and Robinson. On a full count, Aaron Hicks shot a grounder right up the middle to plate Escobar, but Gene Glynn also sent Robinson around third and home plate umpire Tom Hallion called him out on the tag. It was a very similar play to the Rosario run in the second, a safe call which was not challenged by Texas since there was indisputable video evidence that Gimenez didn't tag the runner. On the Robinson slide however, Hallion called the runner out. While it looked like Gimenez may have whiffed on a second tag, there wasn't enough video evidence to overturn the call...at least until I saw the replay from the Rangers broadcast, which you can see here.
The Twins had tied the game but the inning was over.
As big as that play was, the most impressive defensive play of the game went in favor of the Twins. With one out and Delino DeShields on first in the top of the seventh, Brian Duensing came on and his first pitch was grounder through the right side for a base hit. It was a routine grounder but DeShields thought he'd try to take third, and with his speed who can blame him for trying? Except Eddie Rosario doesn't have a bad arm and he's pretty accurate; he came up throwing, putting the ball on a frozen rope to Miguel Sano at third who slapped the tag down and erased DeShields. It was beautiful.
Texas would get their go-ahead score in the eighth. Casey Fien gave up back-to-back singles to start the frame, putting runners on the corners, and Elvis' Andrus sac fly would bring home the Rangers' sixth run. Fien's ERA has ballooned fo 4.05. His inconsistencies have been a legitimate part of the lack of confidence in the bullpen over the last few weeks, and his inability to get big outs today was the difference.
That shouldn't take away from the mistakes that Ervin Santana made in the middle innings. He didn't have his best stuff today, getting away with a couple of mistakes in the first three innings, but he wasn't able to adjust. When the lineup rolled around and hitters saw him a second time, they took advantage. It was disappointing, because you'd like to see a pitcher with a 4-0 lead - with any semblance of command - be able to at least limp through until he could turn the game over to his bullpen. That's not the way it works in sports (or life for that matter), but it did hurt for a team desperate to roll up victories.
It was a good game though, and in the bigger picture the Twins do come away with a much-needed series win. Now Minnesota hits the road, and that's where they really need to start playing better.
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