Twins freeze White Sox for first win of season
By Mike Berardino
St. Paul Pioneer Press
CHICAGO — How crazy was this game, this series, this start to a Twins season rife with question marks?
Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, the legendary broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox, stopped by the visiting manager’s office when it was over late Thursday afternoon just to pay his respects to Ron Gardenhire and his resilient team.
“You got to yell a little bit, I bet,” Gardenhire said after the Twins’ 10-9 win moved him within one of 1,000 for his career.
“We’re going to have a lot of these like this,” Harrelson said.
A day after going 11 innings in near-freezing temperatures only to lose on a walk-off wild pitch, the Twins blew a 5-1 lead, fought back from deficits of 8-5 and 9-8 and finally won the three-hour, 42-minute ordeal in a freezing rain.
No more than a few thousand fans remained at U.S. Cellular Field by the end.
“For both teams to give what they gave out there and keep playing, that’s impressive,” Gardenhire said.
“Everything they had,” Harrelson, nodding in agreement, said as he embarks on his 56th year in baseball.
Down to their last strike in the ninth, the Twins tied it on Trevor Plouffe’s opposite-field single off White Sox closer Matt Lindstrom, scoring pinch-runner Jason Bartlett. That set the stage for Oswaldo Arcia, who ended an 0-for-13 drought to open his year with a laser-beam triple off the wall center.
White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton nearly ran that one down the way he had snared Arcia’s identical shot two innings earlier. But this time Arcia got just enough of it to make the Twins a winner for the first time this year.
First, however, closer Glen Perkins had to work around a windblown double and an Arcia throwing error that put Dayan Viciedo on third with one out. Perkins, tagged with a blown save on Wednesday, came back to get Alexei Ramirez on a line out to shortstop Pedro Florimon and pinch-hitter Paul Konerko on a groundout to third.
Twins first baseman Chris Colabello drove in a career-high six runs, but afterward the veteran of seven independent-league seasons couldn’t stop shaking his head at the “team effort” that lifted the Twins.
“That was awesome,” Colabello said. “That’s what the game is all about: guys rallying around each other, guys having big at-bats, never going away. It would have been easy after giving up a 5-1 lead to pack it in, but we didn’t. That’s what really good baseball teams do. That’s a character win for sure, right there.”
Despite being out-homered 6-1 in the series, the Twins came within a rushed Plouffe throw on Wednesday of taking two out of three from their American League Central rivals.
Rookie catcher Josmil Pinto tied this one with a solo homer to left in the eighth.
Light-hitting third baseman Marcus Semien put the White Sox back in front with a solo homer off lefty reliever Caleb Thielbar in the bottom of the eighth.
All of that came after starter Phil Hughes and reliever Anthony Swarzak combined to surrender seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Hughes, making his Twins debut after spending a decade in the New York Yankees organization, left with a 5-4 lead despite allowing a pair of home runs.
“There was so much stuff that happened in that game,” an emotional Gardenhire said. “I came up these (clubhouse) stairs about eight times.”
As important as winning was for the Twins, coming off three straight seasons of 96 losses or more, it was the way they won that left their 13th-year manager feeling uplifted.
“If you could have felt the atmosphere on the bench, you’d be impressed,” Gardenhire said. “We never gave up. We had chances once they got the lead. We had chances to kind of sit back.”
Instead, Colabello delivered with two strikes for the third time, his run-scoring groundout starting the comeback in the seventh. Plouffe followed with another of his five singles and five RBI the past two days.
By the end, Pinto said, no one in the Twins dugout even noticed how cold it was.
“I love it when the weather is like this,” Pinto said. “I hate it when it’s hot because I sweat too much.”
The only one sweating on the Twins’ side was Gardenhire, trying to work around a depleted bullpen and survive another shootout at the Cell.
“These guys were really hooting and hollering,” Gardenhire said. “The starting pitchers were out there, which is something I’ve implored everybody to do: Get out there and root for each other. They were all out there.”
It all added up to career win No. 999 for Gardenhire, who’s only been waiting since September to open a commemorative bottle of champagne meant to mark the millennial milestone.
One more win, and as Harrelson would say, you can put it on the board.
The Pioneer Press is in a media partnership with Forum News Service.