ARLINGTON, TEXAS — When Shin-Soo Choo stepped into the batter’s box during the ninth inning on Friday, Twins reliever Sergio Romo said, “I thought to myself, ‘Ah — it’s you again.’ "
Good line. Great memory.
Romo had indeed pitched to the Rangers right fielder once before, and when it was mentioned to the Twins righthander after the game, he beamed at the recollection. Choo was waiting to bat when Romo was summoned to pitch the eighth inning in Cleveland on June 26, 2008 — his major league debut for the Giants.
“My very first batter! It was fun to face him again,” Romo said with glee. “To be honest, I thought about that when he came up.”
It’s hard to judge which is more remarkable — that two such veteran big-leaguers could go 11 years without ever matching up even once more, or that Romo could recall with such precision every pitch of that long-ago at-bat.
“I got behind him, but got a strike. He swung at a high pitch, and he flew out to left-center,” said Romo, who pitched to 2,433 batters between encounters with Choo. “Oh, I can’t believe I walked him tonight.”
Yes, amid the nostalgia, Romo, given the ninth after Taylor Rogers faced the lefty-laden middle of Texas’ lineup in the eighth, had to escape a pretty tense jam to preserve the Twins’ 4-3 lead. He allowed a one-out double to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and after getting Logan Forsythe to ground out to short, he lost an eight-pitch duel with the 37-year-old Choo, losing him on an 80-mph slider that drifted just outside (pictured above: Romo's reaction to the walk).
That brought up Danny Santana with the game at stake, and Romo knew it.
“You’ve got to respect his ability. That’s a very special bat, and he’s been showing it all season. He’s dangerous,” Romo said. “Any kind of mistake, we’re going to walk off with our heads down. I had to keep it on the corners, and luckily, I got the swing I wanted.”
It was a 1-2 changeup, well off the plate, but Santana reached for it and pulled it on the ground, into the Twins' shift. Romo escaped the threat and earned his 20th save of the season, and third as a Twin.
It was a relief for Romo, coming just two days after he surrendered a lead in Milwaukee on a Trent Grisham home run.
“Definitely. That’s why they brought me here, and I’m very pleased that I got them out,” the 36-year-old Romo said. “I’m very pleased that I got the opportunity, first, and even moreso that I was able to come though.”
Then the veteran pulled out a baseball cliché about relievers, the one about “as relievers, we’re taught to have very short memories.” And a man who moments earlier had displayed his remarkable memory for an 11-year-old at-bat laughed at the irony.