MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the great things about baseball is the chance for any and all players to do something remarkable, and the highlight in the Twins’ otherwise dull loss to the White Sox on Monday, Aug. 19, came from a No. 9 hitter with two home runs and a .250 batting average.
Chicago infielder Yolmer Sanchez laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt on an 0-2 count to score Tim Anderson for a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning at Target Field.
A suicide squeeze play is rare in today’s game; on an 0-2 count it’s a unicorn. Afterward, Rocco Baldelli said he had never seen one in professional baseball until Monday night.
Sanchez had one shot and made it work. Anderson was nearly to the batter’s box when he sent a soft bunt straight at pitcher Kyle Gibson, who turned and made the only play he had — at first base.
It was Sanchez’s sixth sacrifice bunt of the season; teammate Leury Garcia as eight. Heading into Tuesday night’s game, they ranked No. 1 and No. 3 among American League position players.
“I’m the type of player that has to do the little things; I have to bunt for a base hit, sacrifice bunt, safety squeeze and hit-and-run — all those little things — and I have to be ready,” Sanchez said Tuesday. “I have to be ready when the manager asks me to do those little things; I have to get it done.”
Gibson said he was alerted to the possibility of a squeeze by pitching coach Wes Johnson and threw Sanchez a high fastball.
“It was good, and I’m glad that he threw a fastball,” Sanchez said. “A fastball is easier to bunt than a breaking ball. In that situation he can throw a fastball or a breaking ball 0-2, but I was ready; I just had to put it down.”
Gibson lamented not getting the pitch, his last in a 6-4 loss, higher.
“Well, the thing is, to swing the bat, it was a high fastball,” Sanchez said. “To bunt I think it was a little bit easier to control that high fastball.”
Hildenberger to Rochester
The Twins activated right-hander Trevor Hildenberger from his rehab assignment on Monday. Shut down by a muscle strain in his forearm since June 17, he was available to pitch for Triple-A Rochester on Monday in New York.
Hildenberger, 28, threw two scoreless innings in a Gulf Coast League game on Saturday, surrendering one hit and fanning two.
“I’m just happy to be competing against a guy in the box again and not worried about how my arm is going to feel when I’m done,” he said.
Rochester will give him a chance to see where he is against professional hitters, and show the Twins he can be part of the team as the playoff chance intensifies heading into September. He started the season with Minnesota and was 2-0 with a save, four holds, 10 strikeouts and a 0.00 earned-run average in 7.2 innings as the Twins bolted to an 8-3 start.
After a rough stretch, he was sent to Rochester to iron out his mechanics. That was interrupted by his forearm injury. He’s still tinkering with his arsenal — sidearm fastball, slider and changep with heavy sink — “as I work my way back to full health.”
“Honestly, I haven’t felt this good in two or three months,” he said.
The Twins have placed a large “Bomba Counter” to record the team’s home run total behind the seats in the right field plaza. At the start of Tuesday’s game against Chicago, it read 241 — most in baseball.
How does Baldelli feel about it?
“I am completely indifferent about the home run meter,” he said.
Byron Buxton, on the injured list since Aug. 3 because of a separated shoulder, worked on the field before Tuesday’s game. He took light swings in the cage on Monday and was preparing to ramp that up this week. “Everything that he’s done as been good so far,” Baldelli said.