MINNEAPOLIS – Eddie Rosario electrified whatever portion of the Target Field crowd that hung around to see his dramatic 10th inning walk-off home run Wednesday night, the first of his pro baseball career.
That home run was crucial to Wednesday night’s 3-1 win. And the whole game was a good reminder postseason baseball is right around the corner, if the Twins continue to play this way.
“Feeling awesome,” Rosario said after the game, before adding that he’s never hit one since he signed with the Twins in 2010, not at any stage of the minor leagues, even. “Never in my life,” he said.
Rosario’s smash to the plaza out in right field – a long way from home plate, even more than the 430 feet that Statcast estimated, according to Paul Molitor – capped a good win for the Twins.
Here are 4 quick-hit reasons that Wednesday’s game reminded me that October baseball could be right around the corner for the Twins.
–Ervin Santana pitched 6 shutout innings, and Molitor said that he took him out of the game to keep him ready to roll for his final three starts of the season. Keep the ace as fresh as possible for those final three outings; you may need him again on October 3 in New York, for the one-game Wild Card playoff series.
–The win, coupled with an Angels win against the Astros, put the Twins up 2 ½ games in the hunt for the second A.L. Wild Card spot. The Angels have to make up those 2 ½ games, and there are only 17 games left to play.
The pressure’s about to ramp up, in other words. We’re fully into scoreboard watching season.
(Seattle’s 3 ½ back, Kansas City and Texas are 4 games out, and Baltimore is 4 ½ back and probably cooked.)
–Molitor turned to the bullpen, and treated every out like it was crucial Wednesday. That’s the way October goes. After Santana, he used Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Alan Busenitz and Matt Belisle.
Hildenberger was good in the 7th inning, got a strikeout to start the 8th, then gave up a homer and walked a guy – and then Molitor yanked one of the most trusted Twins relievers to play the matchup game with Taylor Rogers. Rogers faced two lefties, got one out and let on a base runner, so Molitor turned back to the right side and got Busenitz, who got Mil Myers out on a fly ball to end the tense inning with the score tied at 1-1.
Busenitz got into trouble in the 9th inning with the score still tied, so Molitor went to Belisle, who stranded two runners on base by getting a couple fly outs, and then he pitched a clean 10th to set up Rosario’s heroics.
–The Twins offense has morphed into one of the best in baseball, without middle-of-the-order slugger Miguel Sano.
Entering Wednesday, they ranked first in runs scored since the all-star break (318). They ranked second as a team with a .474 slugging percentage since the all-star break (and they’re first in ISO, .205). Their .347 Weighted On-Base Average is second only to the Chicago Cubs in the second half.
Rosario’s been a big part of that, but he’s not alone. We also have to credit Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and a number of other hitters for driving an offense to the top of the league. If they get Sano back to anywhere near the top of his abilities, I don’t think you’d want to face this team in October, at least not if you’re an opposing pitcher.
“Rosie, he’s been incredible the majority of the season,” Molitor said. “A heads-up baserunning play to get our first run, and then, you know, he got a hitter’s count [2-0] and he swung about as hard as he could and he hit it about as hard as you could. It was a good way to end the game. Good win.”
It was noted to Molitor that Rosario seemed to swing out of his shoes to clobber that pitch out in the 10th inning.
“I get it that he’s going to do that once in a while,” Molitor said. “I like that he’s showing control when we need a base hit, but when he gets a hitter’s count and he cheats to a spot? Barrel got there.
“I don’t know what the measured distance was,” he said.
Somebody told him that the tape read 430 feet.
“Short,” Molitor said.