MINNEAPOLIS — Ryan Doumit spent the past week itching to return to the Twins lineup after a mild concussion confined him to an observer’s role.
He spent much of Friday night in the same agony, pining for a better comeback showing that never materialized.
Doumit, and his team, had their chances Friday night in a 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
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“Unfortunately, we missed a few opportunities … in some big situations to get a big hit,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.
After missing the past eight games, Doumit was reinstated as the designated hitter Friday and went 1-for-4 with a single and a squandered opportunity to reverse Minnesota’s course against its partner in American League Central Division ineffectuality.
He wasn’t the only Twins batter to come up small in the clutch, but his lengthy, looking strikeout with the bases loaded in the third represented Minnesota’s best chance to keep Chicago from evening up the teams’ four-game series at one game apiece.
Pressing but persistent, Doumit fouled off eight offerings during a 12-pitch at-bat that ultimately left him staring at the Target Field dirt in disbelief after White Sox starter Jose Quintana got him on an 80-mph curveball. He’d shown Doumit nothing but low-90s fastballs after his first offering, and the nine-year veteran from Moses Lake, Wash., didn’t even think about offering at it.
That left the Twins (54-66) trailing 4-1 and encapsulated the night for the AL’s second-worst hitting team with runners in scoring position.
“He battled through,” Gardenhire said of Doumit’s all-for-naught strikeout. “You’ve got to protect the plate, and you’ve got to fight off some pitches. He did that. Then the guy threw a nice breaking ball and kind of locked him up on it.”
Wilkin Ramirez led off the bottom of the seventh with his first triple since 2009, and Brian Dozier singled him home three batters later to cut Minnesota’s deficit to 4-2. Joe Mauer, who hit a solo home run to right-center field in the first frame, walked to give Justin Morneau another prime opening, but he capped off an impatient night at the plate with his third consecutive swinging strikeout.
Josh Willingham and Doumit opened the next stanza in similar fashion, each producing a single. But Trevor Plouffe struck out swinging — another of the Twins’ 10 ring-ups of the night — pinch hitter Oswaldo Arcia sent a harmless pop-up into third-base foul territory, and Clete Thomas grounded out to second.
Minnesota went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. In their series against the White Sox last weekend, they went 3-for-37 in the same scenario.
Doumit wasn’t around for that 3-1 series win against a similarly struggling Chicago squad (47-74), having left the Twins’ Aug. 7 game at Kansas City with concussion-like symptoms. He underwent IMPACT testing and worked through ball-blocking drills, bullpen sessions and ran a few bases before being reinstated Friday morning, Gardenhire said.
“It’s nice to have him back in the lineup,” Gardenhire said of Doumit, who came into the evening batting .221. “He said he was a little antsy today to get back out there, but he had some quality at-bats, and he gave us a chance.”
Indeed, the manager’s biggest concern regarding Doumit involved the guy he replaced on the Major League roster. In order to keep three catchers active, Minnesota optioned outfielder Chris Colabello to Triple-A Rochester.
Colabello carried a five-game hitting streak into Thursday’s win against Chicago before going 0-for-3.
“With the move with Colabello, that kind of weighed on my mind more than anything else,” Gardenhire said. “I like having Colabello here. It’s a tough decision.”
Even with the setback, Minnesota is 10-4 this season against the White Sox, who trail the fourth-place Twins by 7 ½ games.
Complete turnaround: A lot changed in six days for both Quintana and opposing Twins pitcher Kevin Correia.
When the two clashed in Chicago last Sunday, it was Correia that locked down a 5-2 victory. This time, Quintana bested him by the same run count.
“The ball was jumping,” Gardenhire said of Quintana’s stuff. “The hitters were saying his fastball was live today. It had some finish at the end of it, which was surprising to some of our hitters.”
Mixing hard two- and four-seam fastballs with a subtle but slippery cutter, Quintana (7-4, 3.66 ERA) adjusted against a lineup that had tagged him for a pair of homers and five earned runs in five innings. His only runs yielded came on Mauer’s home run and Dozier’s RBI single, the second of which chased Quintana after 6 2/3 innings of six-hit, seven-strikeout work.
Correia (8-9, 4.61) struggled early, yielding a pair of runs in both the second and third frames and, like Quintana last Sunday, a pair of home runs — Jeff Keppinger and Adamn Dunn both went deep in the third inning.
But Correia settled in after that and actually lasted one out longer than he did during his last outing, scattering nine hits across 7 1/3 innings and allowing four earned runs.
“To start off like that, it’s an uphill battle from there,” Correia said. “I think I threw the ball pretty well after that and kept us in the game. We had opportunities tonight, and we just didn’t get the key hits when we needed to.”
When divisional opponents are as fresh in each other’s minds as these two are, it’s up to both hitters and pitchers to adjust, Gardenhire said.
The White Sox, on both sides of the mound, did so Friday.
“It goes either way,” Gardenhire said. “It’s just a matter of where the guy gets the ball the second time around and if you’re able to change and get away from patterns. Most of the time, pitchers with good stuff can get away with it two times in a row. But the hitters, the more they see people, normally have a pretty good advantage, too. If you see a guy and you just saw him, you know what he’s going to attack you with most of the time unless he changes his pattern.”
Said Correia: “You’re gonna face these guys a lot. … That’s just the way baseball’s set up. You just go out there every day, and they’re in the same boat. We had the same pitching matchup that we had five days ago. It goes both ways for both teams.”
Count Joe in: After what happened to him and the Twins in the 2009 ALDS, Joe Mauer’s all for expanding video replay in baseball.
Umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled the ball touched down in foul territory, and Mauer wound up hitting a single. The Twins got two more base hits — one of which, hypothetically, would’ve scored Mauer had he made it to second rather than first. The Yankees went on to win Game 2 in 11 innings and sweep Minnesota on the way to its 27th World Series title.
Mauer’s negated extra-base hit didn’t exactly cost Minnesota the series, but he sure wouldn’t have minded it receiving a second look.
“Obviously, that would’ve made a difference,” said Mauer, the American League batting champion that year. “I’m just happy that they’re striving to get all the plays right. I haven’t really seen what exactly is gonna be implemented, but I definitely like the idea of trying to get the calls right.”
The league’s idea, which must still be ratified by the MLB Players Association and the World Umpires Association, grants managers one challenge during the first six innings and two challenges from the seventh inning till game’s end.
Next up: Sudden Minnesota and Canada celebrity Andrew Albers, who has yet to give up a hit in 17 1/3 Major League innings, takes on two-time All-Star Chris Sale in a 6:10 p.m. showcase.
Twins officials expect a hefty walk-up crowd — a refreshing expectation for a team that fell out of the playoff picture weeks ago.
“I would pay to come and see him,” general manager Terry Ryan said. “I’m not going to, but I would.”