Hunter scored on a sacrifice fly that barely reached the outfield grass in the seventh inning Wednesday night, lifting the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Indians.
Hunter’s daring dash helped the Twins move within one-half game of first-place Chicago and Kansas City. The Royals open a four-game series in Minnesota on Thursday. It’s as close as the Twins have been since July 1.
“This is serious,” Hunter said. “I smell blood. I’m like a pit bull. Once I taste blood, I’m on you.”
Hunter said he saw the second baseman stumble and broke for the plate.
“I thought I would take a chance,” Hunter said.
McDonald seemed to be caught by surprise, and took several steps before getting off his throw, which was high and allowed Hunter to avoid the tag.
Catcher Tim Laker didn’t think so. After he blocked the plate perfectly with his right leg, he raced back and tagged Hunter despite plate umpire Scott Nelson’s call on the close play.
“I thought he was out,” Laker said. “Even after watching the replay, I thought he was out. I didn’t get him as he went by, but I don’t think he touched the plate.”
Laker was immediately ejected for arguing, and as he was being escorted back to the dugout, Cleveland’s catcher tossed his mask, glove, the ball and then grabbed the bat boy’s stool and flung it on the field.
“I was just so mad at that point,” Laker said.
It was the second time on Minnesota’s trip that an opposing catcher went ballistic. In Kansas City, Royals catcher Mike DiFelice tossed coolers and a trash can on the field.
“That’s the second catcher we’ve gotten launched,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I think he was safe, but I’m biased. It was a heck of a play.”
McDonald said Hunter didn’t surprise him by tagging up.
“I was only surprised I didn’t make a better throw,” he said.
Brad Radke (9-10) recovered after giving up three runs and four hits in the first to pitch seven solid innings. J.C. Romero and LaTroy Hawkins got through the eighth and Eddie Guardado worked the ninth for his 28th save.
Ryan Ludwick homered for the Indians.
Anderson has been drawing interest from playoff contenders before the Aug. 31 trading deadline, and the left-hander deserved better than another loss.
He allowed four runs—one earned—and five hits in seven innings. Opponents have scored a major league-leading 27 unearned runs against him.
“He should have had a shutout,” Laker said. “We let more than a few get away from us.”
Anderson didn’t stay in the Indians clubhouse very long afterward.
“It’s unbelievably frustrating,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do. It’s tough to swallow.”
The Indians may have had their worst inning—offensively and defensively— of the season behind Anderson in the third.
In the top half, they made three errors, allowing the Twins to tie it 3-3. Then, Coco Crisp made two baserunning blunders before being stranded at third with one out.
Anderson walked Pierzynski to open the third but got Mohr to hit a grounder to second. However, McDonald let a possible double-play ball scoot under him. One out later, third baseman Casey Blake didn’t come up with Shannon Stewart’s grounder, scoring Pierzynski.
“Way too many mistakes,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We’re better than that.”
Crisp should have scored on Gerut’s double but held up when he should have been looking at third-base coach Joel Skinner. Crisp then was slow getting back to third on Ludwick’s sinking liner to left and failed to tag up and score.
Ludwick has been Cleveland’s late-inning hero, delivering game-winning hits three times in extras. This time, though, he came through in the first with athree-run homer, his sixth.
Romero was struck in the head by a foul ball hit by Cleveland’s Ben Broussard during batting practice. But other than being a little shaken up, Romero was OK. … McDonald, bothered by a bad back since June, is in a 2-for-36 slump. … If he gets traded, Anderson is due a $600,000 bonus. …Mohr’s sacrifice in the seventh was just his second this season.