Twins’ patience at the plate paying off, especially against Blue Jays
MINNEAPOLIS — The old scoreboard at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome used to display a message with a picture of a ghost whenever an opposing pitcher gave a Twins batter a free pass: "Walks Will Haunt."
That phrase has perhaps never been more true than it was Thursday night at Target Field.
Minnesota drew 12 walks in the game — and a whopping eight walks in a six-run eighth inning — as the Twins rallied to beat Toronto 9-5 in the second game of a split doubleheader and improve to 8-7 on the season. The eight walks in an inning were the most drawn by a major league team since the Texas Rangers did so on April 19, 1996.
Minnesota has shown patience at the plate so far this season and ranked among the best in the majors at drawing walks. But Thursday’s display took things to a whole new level as the eight-walk inning became a part of something no one in the Twins’ clubhouse had been a part of before.
"It was a lot of fun in the dugout, because everybody was into it," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "I don’t know if you guys have seen it. Maybe in some other league, but I’ve never seen that before. That ball was flying everywhere."
The crazy eighth inning began when Twins catcher Josmil Pinto drew a walk against Blue Jays reliever Steve Delabar, who then walked Chris Herrmann. Third baseman Eduardo Nunez, making his Minnesota debut, laid down a two-strike sacrifice to advance both runners.
From there, Minnesota’s walk parade continued. Pinch hitter Trevor Plouffe coaxed a walk against Sergio Santos to load the bases. That’s where Santos fell apart. The Toronto reliever issued three wild pitches in the inning, and the Twins scored runs on all three as Santos blew Toronto’s first save of the season.
One of those wild pitches resulted in a walk to Kurt Suzuki, who was pinch hitting for Eduardo Escobar. The third wild pitch by Santos was against Brian Dozier. He drew the fifth walk of the inning, and pinch runner Pedro Florimon scored the tying run.
"Going into it, I kind of knew that Santos throws sliders more than fastballs," said Dozier, who also hit a leadoff home run in the first inning. "After he spiked a couple of fastballs early, he went straight to throwing only sliders. . . . That’s more of a strikeout pitch and he kept throwing it, so we kept taking it."
Before it was all said and done, the Twins drew eight walks and had just one hit in the six-run eighth inning. Jason Kubel’s two-run single to right snapped the streak of walks at five, but it helped Minnesota tack on to its lead. Nine different Twins players drew walks in the game, with Pinto leading the way with three. Center fielder Aaron Hicks was the only starter not to work a walk.
Coming into Thursday’s doubleheader, Minnesota had drawn 65 walks as a team, which ranked near the top of the baseball leaderboard. The Twins drew five more in Thursday’s matinee and a dozen more Thursday night to boost their total to 80 on the season — tops in the majors.
While a good number of the 12 walks in Thursday’s 9-5 win can be attributed to the wildness of Toronto’s pitching staff, Minnesota’s hitters still showed a patient eye. The ability to work the count and get on base is a big reason why this Twins lineup is scoring runs at a much higher frequency than many people expected before the season started.
"You look at our lineup and we’ve got guys in the lineup with a little more time under our belts now. They know what it takes," Dozier said. "You’ve got to draw your walks. It’s a long year. Any way to get on base in certain situations, guys are doing that now. But at the same time, we’re not going to lose our aggressiveness. We’re still out there trying to hack away."
Minnesota didn’t need to hack away in the eighth inning Thursday. Even if the Twins wanted to swing, Toronto’s bullpen didn’t give them much to hit.
"Me and (Kubel) were joking in the dugout, we were like, ‘Man, we’ve been doing it all wrong for a while. We’ve been trying to hit the ball to score runs. We don’t need to do that,’" said Chris Colabello, who drew the seventh of eight walks in the bizarre eighth inning. "It was awesome, just the combination of guys having good grinder at-bats and not trying to do too much. It’s really easy in those situations to get too amped up and get out of the zone. But obviously, awesome approach by everybody. It was just a great team inning."
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