ARLINGTON, TEXAS – Jonathan Schoop’s playing time is gradually being eroded away by rookie Luis Arraez. But the veteran infielder occasionally leaves reminders for his team that he’s still around.
A game-turning two-run homer off an All-Star lefthander makes for quite a Post-It Note.
Schoop, making just his fifth start of August, lofted an inside changeup into the first row of the left-field seats at Globe Life Park on Friday, a two-run shot that turned a one-run deficit into a 4-3 victory over the Rangers.
“The win feels good, no matter if you’re not playing [much]. You’re a team,” Schoop said. “When the chance is on you, you try to do your best and try to take advantage of it.”
This time, he took advantage of manager Rocco Baldelli’s decision to open a spot for Schoop by moving Arraez to left field for a night, and against Rangers lefthander Mike Minor, the move paid dividends. Schoop’s seventh-inning home run, his 17th on the season but first since July 26, rescued a Twins offense that, except for his homer and Max Kepler’s three innings earlier, moved only two runners into scoring position all night.
But two homers were enough, partly because the Rangers donated an extra run when second baseman Rougned Odor dropped Miguel Sano’s routine-looking popup in shallow right field in the fourth inning.
“The wind was blowing. It was really strong. You had to basically be on alert every time the ball went up,” Baldelli said of Odor’s costly mistake. “Those aren’t fun nights.”
Well, no matter how much they empathized, it got a lot more fun for the Twins one pitch later. Minor started Kepler with a fastball right down the middle, and it wound up a half-dozen rows back in the right-field seats, his third home run in just 10 career starts in this ballpark.
It staked Jake Odorizzi to a two-run lead, which lately is all the righthander, who had allowed two runs over his past three starts, needs. This time, though, he gave one run back immediately, and on a real rarity: A wild pitch, only the second one Odorizzi had allowed in his two years as a Twin, and his first in 40 starts.
With Elvis Andrus on third base and Odor at the plate with two outs, an Odorizzi cutter sailed high. Catcher Mitch Garver got his glove on it, but it deflected away, the first time a wild pitch cost Odorizzi a run since 2016.
“[I’m] obviously not happy. I just tried to throw a cutter up and in, and it was a little bit too far up,” Odorizzi said. “It happens. Oh, well.”
His sixth inning was rougher. A leadoff double by Shin-Soo Choo and a two-out walk to Willie Calhoun brought Nomar Mazara, who had already doubled once, to the plate. Baldelli chose to stay with his veteran righthander. But on a 3-2 count, Mazara reached for a high fastball and drove it to deep right center, scoring two runs and foiling Odorizzi’s quest for his 14th win.
“[I] did want to give him a chance to close that out, and obviously it didn’t go quite as planned at the end there,” Baldelli said. “But it doesn’t diminish the fact that he kept us not only in the game, but he gave us a great chance to win. He threw the ball great.”
Maybe, Odorizzi said coyly, he had ulterior motives.
“I really wanted Schoop to be the shining knight in this game,” he joked of his teammate. “It’s tough when you’re not getting consistent at-bats. Maybe you’re struggling a little bit. It’s tough. [But] we’re going to lean on him a lot during this stretch.”
The Twins had to work out of a few jams once Odorizzi left, too. A walk and a pinch-hit single by Hunter Pence got Sam Dyson into trouble, but a slick double play, started by Arraez shortly after he replaced Schoop at second base, ended the threat. Taylor Rogers surrendered a pair of two-out singles before striking out Odor to escape his own jam. And Sergio Romo, called upon to get the final three outs, only did so after two runners reached base.
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But former Twin Danny Santana grounded out, and the victory was preserved.
“It was a good, tense, exciting game,” Baldelli said, “and our guys are going to have a lot of satisfaction coming into this clubhouse after that win.”