Both starter Tyler Duffey and Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor knew it: the sixth inning was critical.
Duffey had been handed a three-run lead, assisted in part by former Twin Carlos Gomez’s adventures in the outfield, and suddenly he had walked Tony Kemp, the Astros’ leadoff man, and given up a single to Alex Bregman.
“He walks the leadoff guy, and you get the 1-2 breaking ball that he didn’t bury the way he had been earlier, and the guy did a nice job hitting it to center field,” narrated Molitor. “And then he got 0-2 and didn’t make a pitch there again.”
Duffey gave up only one run, on a George Springer double that scored Bregman, and then got Carlos Correa to ground out and struck out Evan Gattis to end the inning.
“When that starts to happen right after we score three, you’re hoping that he finds a way to get out, but you get your bullpen going just in case,” added Molitor. “You want to make sure you give yourself an opportunity to get off the field if it went much further, but he stifled it.”
Duffey was replaced in the next inning, but he left the game with the win.
“Pretty good pitching matchup early, both guys kinda settled in. We saw Duffey early with fastball command, which made his breaking ball better. We talk about him a lot, establishing that fastball,” said Molitor.
“Other than the inning where he gave up the run, the walk hurt him and a couple pitches where he was ahead in the count. But did good damage control, and offensively just one big inning. We had the hit-and-run there, and Polanco did a nice job putting it in play, and we got a good skip out to the wall. Gomez lost one in the twilight, which didn’t hurt our cause, and then we cashed him in too.”
Below are Gomez’s misplays, in case you missed them. The first is an error, the second was ruled a triple for catcher Juan Centeno.
Miguel Sano had an adventure of his own, getting caught between second and third after hitting a leadoff double in the sixth. He was doubled-off on a Trevor Plouffe grounder.
“It’s just one of those things where he got caught a little in-between — a man on second, nobody out, a chance to score a run, you gotta know where that shortstop is,” said Molitor. “You gotta anticipate the speed of the ball, the direction, and be able to make a quick decision. He got caught in-between there.”
Plouffe hit a single on the first pitch he saw since his return from injury in the second inning, but it was Eddie Rosario (3-for-4), Jorge Polanco (2-for-4) and Danny Santana (2-for-3) that kept the offense moving.
“Those guys are picking us up,” said Molitor. “You can’t say enough about Polanco so far, just the quality of at-bats and what he’s doing for us.”
And his defense at short, for that matter.
“It was good. We talked about finishing plays, and there was several tonight. The choppers over the mound where he has to make an off-balance throw, he made a real nice play there towards the middle over-shading towards the hole. But he recovered and made a strong throw,” he said.
“Maybe one of the better games I’ve seen him play at short. He was clean, finished, threw with confidence. It was a good night for him all-around.”
Best yet, the Twins no longer have the worst record in the American League.
“I would think that these guys are aware of those things,” said Molitor. “For the most part, I think there’s a lot of energy — guys are having fun, a lot of joking going around, which is good as long as the focus is where it needs to be.
“August 8th we passed somebody?” he added. “How many weeks is that? It’s been a while.”