MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Minnesota Twins aren’t a power-hitting team. Still, they’ve found plenty of ways to get ‘em over and get ‘em in this season.
They finished a three-game sweep of Washington on Thursday with another clutch-hitting lesson for the Nationals.
“Placement’s not always bad,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We put the bat on the ball and see what happens.”
The Twins didn’t hit any homers, but five of their 12 hits were for extra bases. They turned 0-2 counts into hits four times against Nats starter Shawn Hill and had three hits with men at second or third. Minnesota’s .311 batting average with runners in scoring position is more than 20 points higher than the next closest team in the majors, the Chicago White Sox.
“It’s a little bit balanced. That’s what we’re asking for and that’s what we’re looking for and that’s what we’re getting right now,” Gardenhire said.
Perkins (3-2) deserved credit, too. He gave up 10 hits in a career-high eight innings, but nine of them were singles. Dmitri Young hit a leadoff homer in the eighth, a no-doubt drive to left that soared over the head of his younger brother, Delmon, and stopped a span for Perkins of eight outs in nine at-bats.
“The key to pitching is making pitches when they count,” Perkins said. “Getting that groundball or getting that popout to the infield when you have guys in scoring position and less than two outs. You have to make big pitches like that.”
Hill obviously didn’t.
“He threw strikes when he didn’t have to and threw balls when he didn’t have to,” manager Manny Acta said.
Hill (1-4) failed to finish the fourth inning, allowed 10 hits and left trailing 7-2. He walked three, all in the span of the first five batters. Cuddyer started the second inning with ball four, and he quickly scored on Jason Kubel’s triple for the game’s first run. Meanwhile, Dukes added to the list of Nationals fielding flubs in this sloppy series.
Kubel’s drive wasn’t catchable, but Dukes took an awkward angle of pursuit that allowed the ball to carom past him as he stumbled for a second on the right-field corner of the warning track.
Then with the game tied at 2 in the third, Cuddyer hit a double to left field that Wily Mo Pena bobbled with his bare hand when he stooped to grab it while Mauer raced from first base to home. Pena’s error was the fifth of the series for Washington, which could’ve been charged with more.
Hill had his own problems, though. He followed his first victory of the season, last Friday in Seattle, with his shortest and unquestionably worst start.
It’s frustrating to get the same kind of results,” Hill said. “It’s getting really tiring at this point for me.”
For the rest of the team, too.
The Nats left 10 runners on base and lost their 45th game of the season, more than every other team in the majors except the Mariners. They scored only six runs in the series after arriving at the Metrodome with some momentum, though deceiving as it might have been: a three-game sweep over sputtering Seattle.
Acta has preached the positive all season, but injuries have sent the entire heart of the lineup to the disabled list and the mood in the clubhouse this week was somber.
Asked what he thought was wrong, Young said, “A lot, but we can’t look at what’s wrong. We’ve got to look at what’s right with the team. We’ve got to stay positive. We can’t start nitpicking and start pointing fingers and things like that.”
The Twins have had their share of trouble, including a six-game losing streak that ended last week, but they’ve won six of eight and moved back above the .500 mark.
Cuddyer made two jumping catches near the wall in right, one in the fifth with two on and one out when Young smacked one his way. Cuddyer will miss Friday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks—”Randy Johnson-itis,” Gardenhire joked—to be with his wife for the induced birth of their first child, a son named Casey. … With LH Odalis Perez on the DL for at least another week due to shoulder tendinitis, the Nats will call up RH Garrett Mock Saturday for another spot start. Mock was hit hard in his major league debut on June 8, but Acta said he hopes the natural nervousness will subside and help Mock fare better this time. … With these two triples, the Twins raised their league-leading total to 23. … Paul Lo Duca rested after hurting his left hand on a play at 1B the night before when his glove was bent back as Carlos Gomez ran past. Acta said there were no problems. “Obviously it’s going to be sore,” he said. Lo Duca essentially lost his job at C to Jesus Flores when he hurt his other hand and went to the DL. Wil Nieves played behind the plate for Flores Thursday. … Buscher had two hits and two RBIs to raise his average to .375. He has supplanted Mike Lamb, for now, as the regular third baseman.