If there’s one big difference in the way the Twins play after the All-Star break, their 3-2 win over the White Sox on Saturday shows how they’ve reacted when things don’t go in their favor.
Christian Vázquez thought he hit a triple home run in the seventh inning before noticing the ball hit the top of the wall. However, a match-winning brace was a nice consolation. The next batter, Michael A. Taylor, wasn’t able to land a squeeze bunt, so he put an RBI single through the middle of the infield in an eight-pitch at-bat.
Sonny Gray, plagued by walks for the past month, left bases overloaded in the first inning and didn’t allow a spiral in the third inning after giving up four singles. Griffin Jax, defending a one-run lead in the eighth inning, threw a leadoff double on a soft-hit ball that rolled down the right field line and pulled his last two batters back with two runners in the scoring position.
“When things aren’t going the way you want, you don’t put your head down and start pouting and saying, ‘I’m ashamed,'” Gray said after conceding two runs in six innings. “Maybe that’s something I’ve personally done a little bit, which is that you start to shy away from it. My attitude today was that I’m going to keep attacking you through the middle of the plate and dropping the cards as they please.”
The Twins have won seven of their nine games during the All-Star break, taking their four-game record past .500 for the first time since June 2.
Byron Buxton was down a run in the seventh inning, had a walk and Kyle Farmer hit an infield single against reliever Keynan Middleton. Gregory Santos took on Vázquez, who knew Santos was trying to set up a double play with his sinker. Santos’ first throw was a 99 mph fastball, and Vázquez lifted it to the top of the left field wall before rebounding back onto the field.
After the initial confusion between the home run and the double, Taylor twice equalized. When a foul Bunt put Taylor on a two-strike count, he fouled a 101-mph fastball and a 94-mph slider before lining up a fastball on the eighth pitch of the at-bat midway for an RBI single.
“It’s just a massive attack,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli.
The damage against Gray came in the third inning that involved some bad luck. Tim Anderson started the rally with a broken racquet single. With runners out on the corners and a groundball hitter, Eloy Jiménez, on the plate, Anderson easily scored with a double steal.
Vázquez decided to throw to second base despite a big jump from first runner Luis Robert. When Robert took second place, Anderson broke the plate and scored without throwing a pitch home. It was a worst-case game for the Twins’ defense as there were no outs as both runners advanced a base.
Five pitches after the double steal – Jiménez hit a groundball to shortstop – Yasmani Grandal ripped a two-out RBI single down the first base line, bouncing the ball over the bag. Gray gave up four singles and two runs in a 24-pitch inning.
“It went the same way initially, like some games in the last four or five where you felt like you were performing and you gave up some singles,” Gray said. “When you mix in the non-competitive attacks, those are the ones that can really get away from you.”
Gray retired from 10 of his last 11 batters, but still not enough to match Dylan Cease. The White Sox right-hander hit nine in six innings, conceding just three hits and two walks. Kyle Farmer shook his head in a mixture of disgust and confusion after striking in the fifth inning. Cease even silenced the smoking hot Edouard Julien by knocking him out twice and triggering a double play.
The White Sox put two runners on base in the eighth inning, neither of which went down to Jax. The Twins’ reliever pulled it off with a groundout, a soft lineout with a broken bat, and a strikeout.
“The persistence of our pitchers today,” Baldelli said, “was something I will remember from that game.”