Twins demonstrate small ball at its finest in win

Out of the 425 hits the Minnesota Twins had prior to Sunday’s series finale against Cleveland, just eight of those hits came in the form of a bunt. Seven more times, Minnesota successfully executed a sacrifice bunt — only three teams had fewer sacrifice bunts than the Twins entering Sunday.

In Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Indians, the Twins bunted for three of their 11 hits as they took two of three games at Progressive Field.

The Twins’ first bunt of the day came when Brian Dozier led off the fourth inning with a bunt base hit. It came a half inning after Dozier committed one of his two errors on the day. But facing Cleveland starter Justin Masterson, Dozier laid down a bunt down the third base line and reached safely.

Dozier’s bunt base hit went almost as far as an infield double he hit in the second inning, when he hit one off home plate that rolled down the third base line. Cleveland third baseman Jose Lopez let it roll, and it bounced over the bag and into foul territory, allowing Dozier to reach second safely.

Small ball at its finest, and it was just beginning for the Twins.

With third baseman Trevor Plouffe at the plate after Dozier’s bunt single, Dozier took second on a wild pitch by Masterson that went to the backstop. Then, two pitches after the wild pitch, Plouffe executed a successful bunt for a base hit as he dragged a bunt down the third base side. Masterson fielded the ball but had no play, allowing Dozier to advance to third and Plouffe to reach first.

“Dozier started it off, and once he got on base and got to second base, I was just trying to (sacrifice) him over right there,” Plouffe said. “I put a good bunt down and was able to get to first. That’s kind of our job at the bottom of the order and even the top with Ben (Revere) is to get on base for the Mauers and Morneaus and the Willinghams and Doumits. We did a good job of that today.”

The back-to-back bunts from Dozier and Plouffe resulted in a fourth-inning run, as the first of Alexi Casilla’s two sacrifice flies scored Dozier from third. Plouffe’s bunt base hit was his first of the season, and part of a three-hit afternoon as he went 3-for-4 with a run, one day after homering and driving in three runs in the Twins’ win 7-4 win Saturday.

“I faced Masterson coming up in the minor leagues and again in the big leagues,” Plouffe said. “Whenever you’re able to see a guy a few times, you’re able to formulate a plan. I knew what he was going to come at me with today. I had a few hits, and we’re looking forward to keeping it going in Kansas City.”

The Twins weren’t done bunting, however, after Dozier and Plouffe reached on bunts. Right fielder Ben Revere led off the seventh with a bunt single against reliever Nick Hagadone. Revere’s bunt down the first base line pulled first baseman Matt LaPorta off the bag. There was no one to cover the base, allowing the speedy Revere to reach base safely for his fourth bunt hit of the season.

Like it did earlier in the game, Minnesota’s ability to reach base on a bunt single resulted in a run in the seventh. After Joe Mauer struck out for the first out, Revere stole second base with Josh Willingham at the plate. Willingham then doubled to left field, allowing Revere to score.

Thanks in part to small ball and the ability to bunt, the Twins have now won five of their last six games as they head to Kansas City for a three-game series.

“We kind of manufactured some runs through the first part of the game,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of his team’s bunting. “. . . That’s our lineup. We have to be able to do those things. If they’re going to play back, you drop one down. That’s just the way it works sometimes. . . .

“I thought we could have three or four guys bunt in a row since we were in that cycle. It’s entertaining for the manager. I just sit there and watch them do their thing. And that’s OK. That’s a tool. It’s just like a base hit. It goes in the books as a base hit.”

Robby Incmikoski contributed to this report.

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