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Say what you want, but a long Major League Baseball season is most fun when your team wins enough to lead the division, but competition is close enough to make it exciting. The Twins, who are in the midst of an important road trip, just got through with a 3-3 homestead that is a perfect case in point, because it was against the lowly Chicago White Sox and the lowlier Detroit Tigers.
It is dangerous for a contending team to face a noncontending team at this point in the season, because the noncontender will be loose, relaxed, and possibly playing its best with the pressure of high expectations removed.
The Twins lost the first game of the homestand to the White Sox 6-4, when Kyle Gibson gave ump a 3-run homer to Jose Abreu in a 4-run second inning. What I liked about that game was that in the seventh, the White Sox added to their lead when Tim Anderson got to third, and on an 0-2 count, No. 9 hitter Yolmer Sanchez ahead, bunted the ball, hard, out toward the mound. Gibson fielded it quickly but Anderson was already crossing the plate, so he threw Sanchez out at first.
When is the last time you saw a suicide squeeze, where the runner on third breaks full speed for home? The batter must get the bunt down, or else. Well, it could end up being a steal of home, but that’s even rarer. A safety squeeze, where the runner on third is set to break but holds up until the bunt hits the ground is safer. And less exciting. Of course, with two strikes, if he bunts foul it counts as a strikeout. I thought it took a lot of guts to call for a suicide squeeze on an 0-2 pitch, and I can tolerate the occasional Twins loss if the other team executes the most exciting play in baseball.
The next day, the Twins hammered the White Sox 14-4, putting up seven in the eighth to blow the game open. Nelson Cruz, who was embarking on as hot a hitting streak as we will witness this season, went 4-5, scoring three times and driving in three with a home run and three doubles, making him 6 for 11 since coming back into the lineup from a ruptured tendon in is wrist..
The day after scoring 14 the Twins scored none, losing 4-0 as Lucas Giolito blanked them with a 3-hitter, striking out 12 with a complete game. (Remember complete games?)
Then Detroit came to town and Jose Berrios, the Twins once and future ace, seemed to be getting by OK, when suddenly Ronny Rodriguez hit a grand slam in the sixth and the Tigers beat the Twins 9-6. After losing two out of three to the White Sox, this was not the way the Twins wanted to open the Tiger series. Remember, the Twins had just come home from a 5-1 road trip!
The Twins bounced back to beat the Tigers 8-5, with Gibson going into the sixth, having allowed the leadoff batter to reach first in all six innings. Max Kepler hit his sixth game leadoff home run of the season, and is now only two behind Brian Dozier’s 2017 record eight. But trailing 4-1, Miguel Sano socked a 3-run home run, and Jake Cave also homered. The Tigers got a decent performance out of Edwin Jackson, who redefined the term “journeyman” by pitching for his 14th Major League team.
In the sixth and final game of the homestand, the Twins beat the Tigers 7-4 to even the visit home 3-3. They got the 21st home run of the season for C.J. Cron, a 3-run shot in the fourth, and the 18th for Jonathan Schoop, a 2-run blow in the sixth.
The Twins weren’t impressive giving up 32 runs in six home games, but they kept socking their record-pace home runs and tallied 39 themselves. The mark of a good team is winning on the road, however, and after a day off, the Twins went to Chicago, and while facing the invincible Lucas Giolito again, they got to his fastball for second-inning homers by Marwin Gonzales, his 15th, and Schoop, whose 19th homer makes him the most dangerous No. 9 hitter in the Majors. Giolito went 6 innings, gave up only 4 hits and struck out 9, but Michael Pineda was even better, going only 5 innings, also yielding 4 hits, and striking out 8 with only 1 run allowed. The bullpen was solid, including Sergio Romo, who struck out the side in the last of the eighth, and Tayler Rogers secured a 3-1 victory with a flawless ninth. In manager Rocco Baldelli’s usual — but risky — plan of using four relievers to go one inning each, the Twins prevailed.
Former UMD hockey coach, living alone these days up in the woods just south of Eveleth, has been through the grind of serious surgery enough recently, and he’s ready for a little rest and relaxation to get back to normal. If you’ve gone through anything like that, you know how exhausting it can be. A little surgery and more tests, and then a CT scan to investigate some stomach distress.
“An ultrasound showed two gall stones,” Sertie said. “They were going to take care of them, but then they found a third one, sort of folded under, so they had to call in a second surgeon and it turned into four hours of surgery. The three stones were about the size of quarters.”
No lifting, no driving, no going out in his boat to do a little fishing, watching carefully everything he eats. “You don’t realize how much you depend on driving places until they tell you you can’t drive,” Sertich said. “I’ve also got to make sure I stay hydrated, and watch what I eat. As long as I don’t have to give up fried walleye, I can make it.”
More tests, and Sertich is ready to be given the all-clear. He finally can drive himself places, but he can’t do anything involving exertion for a month, he said. “It makes you realize how lucky you are,” he added. “If they hadn’t found it and done the surgery, it could have been really serious.”