Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Dozier's hit, double play, and Arcia's return
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MINNEAPOLIS - Brian Dozier started a game-saving double play in the top of the ninth inning and won it with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth. Dozier drove home Eduardo Escobar, who slid safely ahead of the tag, and the Twins won, 5-4.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Friday'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. After Glen Perkins blew his third save of the season, Brian Dozier and Danny Santana turned a slick double play with the bases loaded to end Chicago's threat in the 9th and keep the game tied, 4-4. Perkins intentionally walked Gordon Beckham to load the bases with one out, after the White Sox had scored twice in the inning.
Gillaspie hit a hard-smash to Dozier, who fielded the ball, pivoted and made a strong throw to Santana at the second base bag. Santana had to contend with Beckham, who was closing in fast as the shortstop rifled to Joe Mauer at first base to complete the double play and keep the score tied.
"With a slow-hit ball, I've got to go home and we can't turn the double play. Hard-hit, I go ahead and turn the double play," Dozier said. "That was the high chopper, the in-between [hop], the only ball I didn't want, to be honest. Hats off to Danny. If he doesn't have an AK-47 attached to his body we probably don't turn the double play. But he's got a cannon. ... It was more Danny. He got rid of it quick and threw a dart over there."
Gardenhire said that intentionally walking a batter to load the bases in that situation is not always "the smartest thing in the world to do. ... In that situation with the closer out there I don't ever like to walk somebody and force him to [get out of it]. They had already tied the game up, I thought we had to go that way and take a shot. Our infield was playing in tight, they made a heck of a turn."
The double play in the top of the ninth set up Dozier's heroics in the bottom of the ninth.
2. Oswaldo Arcia was back in the lineup Friday after back-to-back days on the bench. Arcia is a better hitter than Chris Parmelee and is three years younger. For that reason, several people let me know on Twitter and elsewhere they were upset at the Twins for briefly benching Arcia. Personally, I have a hard time getting worked up about it or blaming Ron Gardenhire for his handling of the situation.
Gardenhire reiterated before Friday's game that although Parmelee did a nice job filling in, Arcia is the starter and Parmelee's role is as a bench player. Gardenhire also said that spending a couple days in a row on the bench isn't bad for a young player, and he hoped sitting would irritate Arcia enough to motivate him to want to change it, to force his way into the lineup. He said Arcia has put in work on the field with hitting coach Tom Brunansky, and Gardenhire said he hasn't had to worry about Arcia getting in swings between starts. He did say, however, that Arcia could make minor improvements in things like tee work, which is not uncommon for younger players.
I think there is a benefit to ensuring a player doesn't get a sense of entitlement to a spot in the lineup. Being clear with players that they need to earn their spot regardless of talent has validity, in my opinion.
3. Arcia was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance and then hit the ball hard three times, with nothing to show for it. He went 0-for-3 in his return to the lineup, but the way he was on the ball and the force with which he hit it each time is an encouraging sign for the Twins.
"It's just about slowing everything down and not trying to hit everything a thousand miles," Gardenhire said before Friday's game. "He needs to shorten his swing a little bit. We know he's going to swing hard ... but he's trying to make up for every missed at bat with one swing and you can't do that."
It certainly didn't seem that was the case Friday.
Arcia said he got to the park early Friday and took extra work in the batting cage and hit off a tee. When he swings his hardest, his front shoulder opens too early and that causes his chin and head to move to such an extent that he can lose track of the pitch. If he keeps his front shoulder "closed," he can keep his head directed at the path of the ball and keep his eyes on the pitch.
4. Kendrys Morales may have cost Kurt Suzuki an RBI in the second inning, but both runners eventually scored and it's tough to blame Morales for what happened. Morales walked with one out and Suzuki drove a ball to the wall in right field. Right fielder Dayan Viciedo chased it and realized just as he got to the warning track that he wouldn't catch it, so he put on the brakes and tried to coral the ball after it bounced off the wall. Meanwhile, Morales froze just before he got to second base to make sure Viciedo would not catch it and double off Morales from first base.
That momentary hesitation really slowed down Morales, because aside from his slow foot speed, his acceleration also is not great. That's not a criticism, just an observation. The Twins, after all, didn't sign Morales for his wheels.
If he had run all the way, Morales had a chance to score from first, because the ball bounced passed Viciedo on the rebound and rolled halfway to the infield. Suzuki settled for a double, pushing Morales to third, and Eduardo Escobar later drove home both runners.
5. Kurt Suzuki threw out a base runner in the third inning on a play that plenty of catchers might not have had a chance. I continue to read and hear that Suzuki is not a good defensive catcher. He has a glaring weakness: inability to throw out runners. But I disagree with the idea that he's no good with the glove.
Conor Gillaspie hit a two-out single off Ricky Nolasco. On a 2-2 offering to Jose Abreu, Nolasco threw a slider in the dirt. Gillaspie made a delayed break to second. But Suzuki blocked the ball, which kicked out in front of him, although close enough that Suzuki could jump out of his crouch to gather the ball and throw out Gillaspie to end the inning. I've written in these columns before that I've been impressed with Suzuki's ability to 'control rebounds,' to borrow a phrase from hockey goalies.
Suzuki's arm strength is mediocre and he's struggled to throw out runners this year, but plays like that one in the third inning Friday are difficult to quantify. I wonder if by focusing almost exclusively on caught-stealing percentage and pitch framing numbers we're underestimating Suzuki's value behind the plate.