Minnesota Twins third base coach Tony Diaz is known for keeping things light in the clubhouse, helping with translations when necessary and sending runners home on close plays. Usually he doesn’t fall under much scrutiny, but when Ehire Adrianza was thrown out on a Marwin Gonzalez double to deep left field in the bottom of the ninth, Diaz was suddenly thrust into the limelight after a 7-3 extra-innings loss on Sunday.
“They made a perfect relay and you have to make that call early, earlier than you probably want to have to make that call, but Tony made a call on it,” said Rocco Baldelli. “Obviously we’re going to back his calls and his instincts out there as our third base coach and again, they made a perfect relay and we gave ourselves a chance to win the game if they don’t make that play.”
The Twins were down 3-1 going into the ninth inning. Eddie Rosario doubled off of the first pitch he saw from Chaska’s Brad Hand, the Cleveland Indians closer. Luis Arraez tied the game up with an RBI single. C.J. Cron had a 10-pitch at-bat, singled, and then was pinch-run for by Adrianza before the game’s biggest at-bat.
Gonzalez’s double scored Arraez, but Adrianza was out by a good measure.
“Obviously, the read of the runner, which I thought he had a really nice read,” said Diaz. “He was almost at second when the ball went over [outfielder Tyler Naquin’s] head. And then, winning run, pushing the envelope a little bit. Two perfect throws required, and if we’re going to take a chance every time two perfect throws are required.”
The case for being aggressive there is that Taylor Rogers had pitched two innings the night before, and he was the best high-leverage pitcher available at that point.
The case against sending Adrianza is that he’s on third with Jonathan Schoop and then the top of the lineup up with only one out.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” said Diaz, “but I’ll take that shot any day.”
“If you want to try to break it down on paper after the game, and not in our shoes because we don’t do that and we never will,” said Baldelli. “If anyone who’s doing that thinks that’s the way that it works when it’s out on the field, it’s not. You have to take into account everything you know, all of your instincts and watch the play in front of you.”
Rogers ended up giving up a seeing-eye single to the 9-hitter, Kevin Plawecki, walking Francisco Lindor and allowing Greg Allen to reach on a bunt-single to load the bases. Then a Carlos Santana grand slam.
“I just wasn’t getting ahead,” said Rogers, adding that he didn’t feel like he had his best stuff. “It felt good at the start, then felt like there was a cheap hit and it kind of unraveled after that.”
Common sentiment among the fanbase is that the Twins squandered an 11.5 game lead in the AL Central. The feeling in the clubhouse is that they’re in it, and they’re confident that they can hold the Indians off in the last 40-plus games of the season.
“I can’t speak for everybody but personally, no,” Rogers said when asked if he’s worried about giving up the lead. “I think it’s like we talked about, baseball is a marathon and not a sprint. If it was a sprint, Cleveland would have had a bad year when they didn’t start so hot. It’s a marathon, and this group will keep doing what it has been doing. And we will see what happens at the end.”
Minnesota was 15-12 in June and 13-11 in July, while Cleveland went 28-15 during that stretch. The Tribe took care of a relatively light schedule, and now will face tougher competition. The Twins get the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers twice in a row after facing the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers on the road. They have six games left against Cleveland.
“It’s a long season,” said Gonzalez. “Forty-four games is a lot of time to do some damage. It’s like Opening Day. We’re tied.”