Wetmore: 5 thoughts, Hughes' continued excellence, Kubel's Sombrero
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He said last week that it would be a big start for him - his first in Yankee Stadium since they let him walk out the door and sign with the Twins in free agency. He also acknowledged the relative importance might get overblown. For the Twins, the win meant they beat the Yankees in a series in New York for the second year in a row. And although Hughes pitched well through 8 innings (3 hits, 2 runs), the Twins needed a late jolt to beat New York.
Josh Willingham homered to lead off the ninth inning to tie the game at 2-2, then Minnesota proceeded to score five more runs and run away with the rubber game.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Sunday's game.
As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. Second baseman Brian Dozier turned an athletic double play to end the second inning. Dozier slid to field a ball hit on the ground up the middle toward second base. From his slide, he tagged second base, popped up to his feet, created an angle to throw around the base runner and fired to first to retire Ichiro Suzuki and complete the double play.
2. Phil Hughes' only blemish came in the fourth inning, in which the Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out. Derek Jeter had already singled home Brett Gardner, who tripled to open the inning.
Once the Yankees loaded the bases on another single and a walk, the Twins infield played what I would call "half way." The infielders did not play on the grass to cut down a run, but were not all the way back in their usual positions. Joe Mauer played further back at first than Trevor Plouffe played at third, and the middle infielders were put in position to turn a double play on a groundball hit to the middle of the infield. If I read the infield defense correctly, they were willing to concede the runner scoring from third for the chance at turning a double play. The score was tied at that point and it was relatively early in the game.
Hughes got a pop out and a sacrifice fly to Aaron Hicks, who parked behind the fly ball from Suzuki but couldn't make the throw in time to the plate to retire Jeter.
Hughes struck out Brian Roberts with a backdoor cutter to end the inning and avoid further damage.
3. Hughes' no-walk streak came to an end Sunday. He walked two batters for the game, his first time handing out a free pass since April 20. In between walks, he pitched to 178 batters. What an impressive stretch.
4. Josmil Pinto had a bat in his hands in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning and appeared primed to pinch-hit for Jason Kubel against right-handed closer David Robertson. Then, Willingham homered to tie the game at 2-2 and Pinto sat down. Kubel strode to the plate and struck out looking, his fourth strikeout of the day. The old Golden Sombrero.
This is admittedly an arbitrary endpoint, but Kubel entered Sunday batting .186/.294/.220 since he played his 1,000th career game on April 11, a span of 167 plate appearances. He has no hits in his past 21 at-bats.
Kubel started in left field Sunday, while Josh Willingham got the day at DH. Perhaps Willingham needed the half day off. In any case, it's likely disappointing for Twins fans to see Kubel continually given plate appearances that should probably be going to Pinto or, to a lesser extent, Chris Parmelee at this point.