Joe Mauer's pinch-hit, three-run homer carries Twins to fourth consecutive victory

Joe Mauer's pinch-hit, three-run homer carries Twins to fourth consecutive victory

Matthew Boyd was in the middle of being a pain in the Twins sides for the second time in less than a week, but things were about to change.

On the mound in the seventh, Tyler Austin blasted a 458 foot home run off of him. Jake Cave dumped a single to center. Johnny Field was hit by a pitch. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire went to the mound and took the lefthander out of the game, replacing him with righthander Louis Coleman.

Detroit does not have a lefthanded reliever on its roster. That made Paul Molitor’s decision to pinch hit Joe Mauer for Ehire Adrianza a no-brainer. And that set the stage for Mauer’s second pinch hit home run of his career.

Mauer worked the count to 3-2, and Coleman gave Mauer a fastball as hittable as can be – right down the heart of the plate. Mauer pounded it into the seats above the right field scoreboard for a three-run homer that propelled the Twins to a 5-3 win over the Tigers. The Twins have won the first two games of this four-game series.

The pinch hit home run was just the second in Mauer’s career, the other coming May 25, 2009 when he connected off of Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon in the Metrodome.

Molitor looked into his closerless bullpen and selected righthander Matt Magill. He gave up an RBI single to Ronny Rodriguez and was a strike away from ending the game, but walked Victor Reyes at the end of an 13-pitch at bat to put two on. Taylor Rogers replaced him and got Jeimer Candelario to ground out to notch his first career save.

The Twins took apart Detroit pitchers on Thursday while scoring a season-high 15 runs, and entered Friday’s game against the Tigers with confidence after using the whole field as well as they have all year.

But then they ran into the approach-busting Boyd on Friday. And the parades around the bases were reduced. Boyd shut down the Twins offense while the Tigers scored twice in the fourth and once in the sixth to take a 3-0 lead into the late innings.

He’s been very effective against the Twins lately.

Mitch Garver smacked a triple off of Boyd to open the second inning on Sunday in Detroit and scored on a sacrifice fly. Boyd handled the Twins from there, leaving after six innings with just one earned run allowed. And Garver was the last Twin to get a hit off him.

Move ahead to Friday, with Boyd on the mound at Target Field. He faced one over the minimum the first time through the order – the only baserunner coming when he hit Cave with a pitch in the second inning. When Boyd struck out Miguel Sano on a curveball to end the fourth, he was the 27th consecutive Twin to record an out against Boyd, going back to Sunday. A no-hitter consisting of parts of two outings.

“The combination of pitches that he has,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said before the game. “I think he hides the ball well, first of all, which causes his velocity to play up. He’s not afraid to pitch in to righties. He can elevate with two strikes. And that breaking ball comes out of that same release point and you get expansion on top with velocity and below with chocking down on the changeup.

“When we have done well, we had been patient getting into hitting counts and then make him throw it over.”

Twins righthander Kyle Gibson attempted to duel with Boyd, getting Detroit to hit into four double plays over the first five innings. But Detroit scored twice in the fourth on a wild pitch and RBI single, then added another in the sixth on Nick Castellanos’ RBI single.

But Eddie Rosario homered off Boyd in the sixth to get the Twins within 3-1, then the Twins knocked Boyd out of the game in the seventh. And ended up with a matchup in their favor.

 

Twins try to again lay lumber on Tigers

Twins try to again lay lumber on Tigers

Joe Mauer will be in the Minnesota Twins‘ lineup Friday night and he’ll probably be in there the rest of the weekend, too, as the Twins continue a four-game series with the Tigers at Target Field.

And barring injury, he’ll be suiting up on a regular basis over the last six weeks of the Twins’ disappointing 2018 season. But after that?

Well, that’s anybody’s guess at this point because Mauer, in the final year of an eight-year contract, isn’t talking about his future.

“I’m looking forward to going out and competing tonight,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press Thursday before the series opener.

Mauer is batting .269 with three home runs and 34 RBIs in 88 games this season, his 15th as a big leaguer — all of which have been spent with the Twins. The St. Paul native has made the playoffs four times in his career, but has never won a series, and admitted that the thought of someday playing in a World Series before his career is up pops into his head.

“Well, yeah, obviously I’m human. You think about that stuff,” Mauer said.

That won’t be happening this season.

The Twins’ high hopes of building of a surprise run to the wild-card game a year ago were dashed early in the season. Now, with time running out on a lost season, manager Paul Molitor has been using the remaining games to experiment a bit with the talent he’ll have moving forward — especially in the outfield.

Right fielder Max Kepler has seen time in center, with center fielder Jake Cave moving to left and left fielder Eddie Rosario spending time in right while reserve outfielder Johnny Field has gotten action at all three spots.

Molitor said the moves aren’t just for the sake of making moves. He wants his players to be prepared for situations that may come up in the future, such as when Byron Buxton landed on the disabled list earlier this season.

Buxton came off the minor league disabled list and returned to action with Triple-A Rochester earlier this week but is still a ways from returning to big league action, leaving Molitor to consider options.

“We’ve got outfielders who can play all positions,” Molitor said. “We were settled for a while there with Jake in center and Kep and Rosie and we’re just giving them a chance to see the game from a different perspective.”

The Twins opened the series on a high note, trouncing Detroit 15-8 behind five hits from Logan Forsythe and a seven-run sixth inning.

Based on the way he’s been pitching the last few weeks, Kyle Gibson (6-9. 3.49 ERA) won’t need that amount of support when he takes the mound Friday for the second game of the series. The right-hander held Detroit to a run over seven innings his last time out — a 4-2 victory in Detroit on Sunday — and has a 3.51 ERA over his last eight starts (4-3).

Gibson is 7-8 with a 5.22 ERA in 18 career starts versus the Tigers.

Detroit starter Matthew Boyd (7-10, 4.20) is facing the Twins for his second straight start. He also pitched well in his last outing, holding Minnesota to a run on two hits over six innings. Boyd has won three of his last four starts and has a 2.37 ERA since the All-Star break. He is 6-3 with a 3.79 ERA in 14 starts versus the Twins.

Forsythe goes 5-for-5 as Twins outslug Tigers 15-8

Forsythe goes 5-for-5 as Twins outslug Tigers 15-8

EditorsNote: rewords next-to-last graf

Logan Forsythe went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs, and Jorge Polanco homered and drove in four runs to lead the Minnesota Twins to a 15-8 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night at Target Field in Minneapolis.

Miguel Sano homered and drove in three runs, Ehire Adrianza hit a two-run home run and scored twice, and Joe Mauer had two hits, a walk and three runs for Minnesota, which finished with 15 hits and won its third consecutive game.

Forsythe, who left the contest to a standing ovation for pinch runner Jake Cave after a seventh-inning single for his career-high fifth hit, is batting .449 (22-for-49) with the Twins since coming over from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Brian Dozier deal at the non-waiver deadline.

Trevor May (1-0), despite walking in a pair of runs in relief of starter Ervin Santana, picked up the win in relief, his first major league victory since July 29, 2016. May, who missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, didn’t give up a hit or a run in two innings, walking two and striking out two.

Nicholas Castellanos, Mikie Mahtook, James McCann and Niko Goodrum all homered for Detroit, which fell to 18-42 in road games. The Twins improved to 17-4 at Target Field since June 24.

Castellanos gave Detroit a 2-0 lead in the first inning with his 18th homer of the season, a two-run shot to the back of the bullpen in left-center that measured 396 feet and also drove in Jeimer Candelario, who had walked.

Polanco put the Twins in front in the bottom of the first with a three-run homer down the left field line, driving in Mauer, who doubled, and Forsythe, who singled.

Minnesota then chased Tigers starter Francisco Liriano (3-8) during a five-run second that featured a two-run ground-rule double down the right field line by Forsythe, a sacrifice fly by Polanco and Sano’s 10th homer of the season, a two-run drive to right.

Liriano, winless since April 28, allowed eight runs (four earned) on five hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the year.

The Tigers cut it to 8-5 in the fourth with their first back-to-back homers of the year by Mahtook — his first of the season, which drove in Victor Martinez, who had doubled — and McCann.

Santana then loaded the bases with no outs to start the fifth before giving way to May, who walked Martinez to force in Jim Adduci, who opened the inning with a single. After striking out Mahtook, May walked McCann to force in Castellanos, who had doubled, to make it 8-7 before striking out Ronny Rodriguez and getting Victor Reyes to ground out to end the threat.

The Twins then blew the game open with a 12-batter, seven-hit, seven-run sixth. Adrianza hit a two-run homer, Sano drew a bases-loaded walk, Tyler Austin hit a sacrifice fly, Mitch Garver had a two-run single and Eddie Rosario added an RBI single.

Goodrum led off the seventh with his 13th home run of the season and fifth against the Twins to end the scoring.

—Field Level Media

Twins moving their outfielders about — because chance exists

Twins moving their outfielders about — because chance exists

– It was just a few days ago that Eddie Rosario was a left fielder and Max Kepler a right fielder. But, recently, the Twins have moved them to other outfield spots.

Rosario has played in right field and Kepler in center during this homestand. Jake Cave, who has played mostly in center, has played in left field. Reserve Johnny Field also has played all three outfield spots in his career.

So the Twins, in the coming weeks, plan to keep moving their outfielders around so they will be prepared for any situation.

“We’ve got outfielders who can play all positions,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We were settled for a while there with Jake in center and Kep and Rosie and we’re just giving them a chance to see the game from a different perspective.”

Kepler on Thursday made his 30th start in center. He filled in there when Byron Buxton was injured and before Cave was called up from the minors. Rosario also has experience in center field and will likely get a couple of starts there as well.

“I would anticipate that’s probably coming,” said Jeff Pickler, Twins coordinator of major league development. “Eddie probably gets off the ball as good as anyone on our team.”

The position changes probably wouldn’t be as much of an option if Buxton were healthy and manning center. But since the opportunity presents itself — it doesn’t hurt to have options if Buxton fails to find his offense — the Twins are taking advantage.

“We’ve seen how versatility has become way more valuable in the game,” Pickler said. “You look around at what other teams are doing, finding positional value in players.”

Rooker walks, slugs

Twins outfield prospect Brent Rooker is having an interesting season at Class AA Chattanooga.

Rooker’s ticket to the majors is his power bat and, like many power hitters, his strikeout totals will be high. But his walk rate has changed dramatically.

Rooker drew just two walks in 24 games in April, eight in 25 games in May and a total of 24 walks through 84 games.

Since then, it’s like a switch has flipped for the 35th overall pick in 2017. Rooker has drawn 25 walks in his past 29 games, heading into play Thursday.

“He has done a great job not missing pitches he should be doing damage on,” said Jeremy Zoll, Twins director of minor league operations. “In turn, this has led to opponents pitching him more carefully, and as he has gotten locked in, it’s easier for him to lay off of those pitches.”

Rooker is batting .267 with 21 homers, 71 RBI, 55 extra-base hits, a .341 on base percentage and .497 slugging percentage. He’s ranked as the Twins’ No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline

Mejia sidelined

Lefthander Adalberto Mejia, following tests on Thursday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, has been diagnosed with nerve irritation in his left arm. He has been shut down for the time being, and the chances of him pitching again this season are remote.

Mejia was injured on Aug. 7 against Cleveland, a game the Twins won 3-2. He felt discomfort throwing his final pitch of the fifth inning.

All lefties for Tigers

The Tigers on Friday will call up lefthander Ryan Carpenter to start against the Twins on Saturday. That means Detroit will start a lefty in every game of this four-game series.

“I don’t know the last time a team had a four-game series and four lefties started,” Molitor said. “Against or for.”

Consequently, Molitor plans to sit one of his lefthanded hitters — Cave, Joe Mauer, Kepler or Rosario — at least once this series. On Thursday, Rosario was out.

Don't ask Twins' Joe Mauer what he's doing next season

Don't ask Twins' Joe Mauer what he's doing next season

Joe Mauer will not crack.

Finishing his 15th major league season and without a contract next season, Mauer has resisted answering questions about his future since spring training. With the season winding down and the Twins in rebuilding mode, he still refuses to budge.

“I’m looking forward to going out and competing tonight,” he said before the opener of a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field on Thursday.

Playing in the eighth and final season of an eight-year deal that paid him $23 million annually, Mauer, who will turn 36 next April, is without a contract for next season. He’s been the Twins’ starting catcher or first baseman since his first full major league season in 2005.

Mauer has been on three division-winning teams and been to the postseason four times, mostly recently when the Twins earned the second American League wild card spot last season. But he’s never been on the winning end of a playoff win, and this year’s team was gutted for prospects at the non-waiver trade deadline after an underwhelming first half.

He also suffered a concussion while trying to field a foul ball this season, another of several going all the way back to his days as a three-sport athlete at Cretin-Derham Hall — which raises the specter of retirement for the father of twin girls, and is now expecting his third child.

“There are a lot of factors, and I just haven’t gotten to that point yet,” he said.

Asked if his prospects of playing in a World Series crosses his mind, he said, “Well, yeah, obviously I’m human. You think about that stuff.”

“But,” he added, “I’ve always been a very routine-oriented guy. I look at the next task, complete that and go from there. So, I really haven’t sat down and done all the thinking that should go into that decision.”

REVOLVING OUTFIELD

With Byron Buxton, arguably the best defensive center fielder in baseball, rehabbing at Triple-A Rochester, the Twins are tinkering with their outfield.

For the second straight game, regular right-fielder Max Kepler was in center, and Jake Cave — who had been spelling Buxton in center — was in left. Ehire Adrianza, primarily an infielder, was in right, but regular left fielder Eddie Rosario was there on Wednesday.

Expect flux over the last six weeks of the season.

“We’re just giving them a chance to see the game from a different perspective, so I don’t think it is going to change ton,” manager Paul Molitor said.

Robbie Grossman, who started a rehab series (hamstring) with the Red Wings in Toledo Thursday night, also has played the corner spots. He will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

Buxton was in Rochester’s lineup for the second straight day since being activated from the disabled list (left wrist strain) but the Twins aren’t rushing him back.

“It’s going to be an evaluation in two- and three-day doses to see where he is at,” Molitor said. “We have a little time to see where he is at. Getting him healthy and getting him back in there is priority one.” Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario poses with his new Super Mario Bros.-inspired T-shirt on Aug. 16, 2018. The shirts were made by Minnesota company SotaStick. (Pioneer Press / John Shipley).

BRIEFLY

Left-hander Adalberto Mejia had an additional MRI exam to determine the severity of what the Twins think is a nerve issue in the area of his left biceps. The team didn’t know the results as of game time. … Right-hander Trevor Hildenberger, who has closed the Twins past three victories, has chosen the White Stripes’ “Seven-Nation Army” as his first official closer song. … Twins players were wearing Eddie Rosario T-shirts inspired by video game Super Mario Bros. that read “Super Rosario.” They were made by Minnesota company SotaStick.

Detroit Tigers score vs. Minnesota Twins: Time, TV, radio info

Detroit Tigers score vs. Minnesota Twins: Time, TV, radio info

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Detroit Tigers (50-71) vs. Minnesota Twins (56-63)

When: 8:10 p.m.

Where: Target Field, Minneapolis, Minn.

TV: Fox Sports Detroit.

Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1; other radio affiliates).

First-pitch weather forecast: Partly cloudy, 86 degrees.

More Detroit Tigers:

Tigers’ Zimmermann better than his stats, but not as good as his salary

Tigers’ John Hicks to undergo surgery, likely out for season

Probable starting pitchers: Tigers LHP Francisco Liriano (3-7, 4.42 ERA). vs. Twins RHP Ervin Santana (0-1, 6.53 ERA).

Tigers lineup: To be posted.

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