KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The day started out pretty well for the Minnesota Twins on the final afternoon of the regular season. The 2:15 p.m. start time meant players and staff alike could roll in a bit later and catch up on some sleep after a busy week on the road.
Once in the clubhouse, it appeared that Luis Arraez was moving around far better than he was after Saturday’s scare. Gone were the crutches that accompanied him out of the stadium Saturday evening, replaced by some form-fitting bandage/tape-looking implements that covered up most of the damage from the seventh inning the previous afternoon.
Most importantly, Arraez was moving around gingerly, but without assistance while miming some swings, suggesting he was in good spirits if not necessarily a couple steps away from walking into the manager’s office and proclaiming “put me in, coach.”
Also of interest was the man sitting in the managerial chair late Sunday morning — utility infielder Ehire Adrianza.
Adrianza, who hasn’t played since joining the team’s M.A.S.H. unit with an oblique injury on Sept. 12, was tabbed by manager Rocco Baldelli as Sunday’s head man. Adrianza admitted after the game he was a little nervous — especially when it came to making mound visits and pitching changes — but he emerged from the game with a huge smile of relief.
And in a way, it was kind of cool to see Adrianza managing his “first” game while Royals manager Ned Yost completed his last one.
Baldelli told the media after the game that Yost told him he had seldom gone out to exchange lineup cards with the umpires and opposing team before games in his extensive MLB tenure. As a result, Baldelli was happy that he got the chance to go out there and greet Ned — a duty that’s usually handled by bench coach Derek Shelton.
“I was a little nervous,” Adrianza said through interpreter Elvis Martinez after the game. “It was a little nerve-wracking going out on my first mound visit. I had sweaty palms. It was a new experience, if you want to put it that way. As the game went along, I felt happy that I was able to help and contribute and go through this learning process today.
“We didn’t win; we wanted to get the win, but that’s OK.”
The Twins entered the day trailing the New York Yankees in the race for the all-time single-season home run record, 305-304. But with home runs from C.J. Cron, Jake Cave and Jason Castro — each of whom had not yet homered in September — the Twins overtook the Yankees to win the overall race, 307-306.
“It’s pretty cool. I didn’t know that,” Cave said when told none of the trio had homered since August. “I’d just known it had been a little while for me, I guess. I didn’t know that about all three of us. That’s pretty neat.”
Castro’s homer gave the Twins 44 from their catchers this season — also an MLB record. Cron’s gave the Twins six players to hit at least 25 in a season, matching the 2003 Boston Red Sox for the most all-time.
Apparently Castro wasn’t aware of how historic his home run was — in either fashion.
“Well, Trevor May told me when I was walking up the tunnel,” Castro said. “He goes, ‘You guys broke two records today.’ And I was like, ‘Well, what was the second one? I know what the first one is.’ And he told me that the Yankees hit one today. That’s how I found out.”
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Baldelli, who served as an additional bench coach for Adrianza, so to speak, on Sunday. “It really is. I don’t think anybody will ever forget the Bomba Squad and I mean that. This is something that’s never happened before in baseball and our guys out there, they just did it. They accomplished it.
“Over a six-month season, our guys just went out there and hit more home runs than any team in the history of baseball. Who knows if it will ever be broken. You never know. It’s a record and this game’s been played by a lot of great players for a very long time. We won’t forget it.”
The Yankees lost 6-1 to the Rangers, getting just one home run from Aaron Judge. Incidentally, the Yankees game ended on a check-swing strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton — the final out in Globe Life Park history — at almost the same instant that Humberto Arteaga touched home plate to give Yost and the Royals a nice sendoff with a 5-4 walkoff victory in front of 17,875 at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Oh, did we bury the lede by not mentioning the Twins lost? Whoops.
For a while it looked like Adrianza might be a hot managerial candidate this offseason with a number of openings confirmed in recent days, like San Diego, Chicago and Pittsburgh as well as the one in Kansas City. The Twins put up three runs in the top half of the first on Cron’s frozen rope that just barely cleared the fence into the Minnesota bullpen in left, and Cave’s opposite-field shot in the same direction three pitches later.
That was pretty much the extent of the offense for the Twins on the day against Jorge Lopez, who just last season took a perfect game into the ninth at Target Field.
On Sept. 8, 2018, Lopez completed eight perfect frames before Max Kepler walked to open the ninth. After Robbie Grossman singled up the middle to negate the no-hit bid, closer Wily Peralta came in to nail down a 4-1 win.
The Twins were much tougher on Lopez in 2019, as he had a 7.88 ERA in five appearances with a slash-line allowed of .329/.347/.657.
In all, it was a solid way to end the regular season for both teams. The Twins got to have a little fun and set a few records, and the Royals got to send their beloved manager into retirement a walkoff winner.
All in all, not a bad day at the yard.
Notes & Quotes
- The Twins (101-61) finished with the second-most wins in franchise history (102-60 in 1965).
- Prior to the game, the Twins named Trevor Larnach and Randy Dobnak their minor-league hitter and pitcher of the year. Larnach hit .309/.384/.458 in 542 plate appearances between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola, while the newly-wed Dobnak had a 2.07 ERA in 135 innings between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A before he was summoned to the big club.
- Hunter Dozier tripled in the eighth inning off Lewis Thorpe, his 10th of the season. That gave the Royals a three-way tie for the AL lead in three-baggers with Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield. The last MLB team to have three players with at least 10 triples was the 1984 Houston Astros, and the last AL team to do it was, oddly enough, the Royals in 1979 (George Brett, Darrell Porter and Willie Wilson).
- The Royals had the AL leader in hits (Merrifield), triples (Merrifield, Dozier and Mondesi) and home runs (Jorge Soler) — the first time that had happened in 41 seasons. Soler added his 48th home run in the bottom of first to pad his AL lead.
- Cron and Cave going back-to-back in the first marked the 12th time this year the Twins had done so. Cron and Cave also did so in Chicago on Aug. 29 — the most recent home run for each player prior to Sunday.
- Baldelli on if his first season went as well as one could have possibly expected: “I never had any win/loss expectations. If that’s how we’re going to measure it, it’s probably on the high end of the win total as far as expectations. Truthfully it goes beyond that for me. It goes beyond the wins and the losses. It goes all the way to every single individual in that clubhouse who I and everyone here — we spend a lot of time together. We get to know each other really well and truthfully watching our guys go out there and succeed and be happy and enjoy themselves on the field, off the field and just enjoy the experience of playing here, that’s what means the most to me, more so than the wins and losses.”
- Baldelli on if he’d rather his team have the days of rest or to play right away in the playoffs: “We’ll take the four days off. I think we’ll make the best out of these four days. They’ll be a good combination of rest and also getting locked in for what we have — we just endured and played through a long season. Our guys have played a ton of games, they have a lot of mileage on them. I don’t think the four games off will hurt us in any way. I think if anything, it can maybe help us.”
- Cave on the team missing out on tying the franchise record of 102 wins: “I didn’t know that either. So no. Nothing had been said about that. I think once we got our 100 and once we clinched, as you can see, we obviously still went out and competed, and there wasn’t really much else on our mind besides just playing ball and trying to stay healthy.”