MINNEAPOLIS -- When Indians outfielder Eddie Rosario watched his former team intentionally walk José Ramírez to load the bases and bring him up to the plate, he could only think one thing: “I love this moment.”
The adrenaline naturally builds in any high-leverage situation, especially one against your former team, but having that club choose to put you in that moment takes that energy to another level. Rosario wasted no time, jumping on the first pitch he saw and delivering the go-ahead two-run single to help lift the Indians to a 4-1 victory over the Twins in the opener of a four-game set on Thursday night at Target Field.
As Rosario broke toward first base, he flipped his bat and gave a quick glance into Minnesota’s dugout.
“That's in the moment,” Rosario said. “I've done that a lot before for the other teams, not exactly for the Twins. I do that when I do a good job and at this moment, I'm very excited.”
There were three big reasons for Rosario to be excited in that moment aside from him excelling against his old friends. One, he was able to get redemption after committing an inning-ending baserunning blunder in the sixth.
After stealing second base as Bobby Bradley struck out, he took a few steps off the bag as he watched the ball roll away from shortstop Andrelton Simmons into center field. When he determined he wasn’t going to attempt to advance to third base, Rosario took a slow stroll back to second. While looking toward the infield, second baseman Jorge Polanco snuck in, caught the ball from Simmons and applied a quick tag on Rosario, who wasn’t paying attention, as he was half of a step from the base. After a replay review, the inning-ending out call was confirmed.
“I need more focus in the game,” Rosario said. “I tried to see what happened at home plate. … I want to make sure it won't happen again.”
Rosario was relieved to learn that his homecoming wouldn’t be defined by that miscue. Cleveland had one out in the eighth with runners on the corners when Ramírez was granted a free pass to load the bases, bringing up a familiar face to the plate in a crucial situation. So, the Twins turned to lefty Taylor Rogers to face Rosario, the left-handed hitter.
“Eddie kind of likes those moments, but I’m going to bet on Rog every time,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Rog is as good a left-hander out of the bullpen as you’re going to find anywhere in baseball.. … He just missed with a pitch in the middle of the plate, and Eddie put a good swing on it.”
In high-leverage plate appearances this year entering Thursday, Rosario had hit just .227 with a .625 OPS, but this time, he drove the first pitch he saw for his first go-ahead RBI of the year after the seventh inning.
“I was happy for him because that was certainly not what we were aiming for earlier,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But he got a big hit and that's a good game to win, man. Sometimes winning's hard, but it doesn't mean you can't do it.”
With all the injuries the Indians are working through, every win is a reason to be excited. On top of that, Rosario is watching his numbers start to trend in the right direction. Cleveland signed the slugger in the offseason in the hopes he’d be a huge boost to an offense that desperately needed some extra life. Instead, Rosario got off to a cold start, but his clutch two-run single continued to show he’s starting to heat up. The base hit extended his hit streak to 11 games -- a stretch in which he’s batting .333 (14-for-42) with seven RBIs.
“I know we are competing, but Rosario’s still like my brother,” Twins starter José Berríos said. “ I spent eight years of my career with him. He’s a special part of my life and my heart. I had a chance to watch him back with another team at Target Field and he’s still doing what he knows how to do. He’s impressive.”