Rosario's 'awesome' DP saves Dobnak, Twins

August 16th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- sprinted in, slid and made a game-saving grab, jolting some energy into the Twins. When received the throw to double the runner off second, he emphatically slapped his glove down on the base for the third out. A Twins infielder hurled the ball into the empty stands as the team hooted and hollered while piling back into the dugout.

That sixth-inning double play preserved a one-run lead the Twins had carefully built behind another strong start from rookie and a go-ahead two-run homer from . Momentum and energy swings like that could help Minnesota carry forward the positive momentum from a 4-2 win over the Royals on Sunday at Target Field.

“It’s awesome,” Dobnak said. “If they can bring that energy to the dugout, it creates some punch for the offensive side of the game. Overall, it just brings everybody’s morale up, just for that one play to have that energy, come in and take that to the offensive side of the game. It’s just a nice little swing of things.”

Though Dobnak had retired 11 in a row into the sixth inning, he left a pair of runners on base with one out for reliever Tyler Clippard. When Hunter Dozier lined a pitch into shallow left field, Rosario raced in from his starting position just in front of the left-field warning track and covered 49 feet in 3.4 seconds before he slid to make a snag with a catch probability of only 25 percent, per Statcast.

Rosario quickly got the ball back to the infield, but the haste wasn’t necessary. Lead runner Whit Merrifield was already halfway between third and home representing the tying run, leading to an easy double play.

“He's been working his butt off out there to be a better defender,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He got a tremendous jump. That is not an easy play at all for an outfielder on a ball hit that low right at him. You see that fall in 99 percent of the time. He got a great jump and knew exactly what to do prior to the pitch, and that's the important part. He was anticipating that, and you could tell on that play.”

“People may not know this, but the sun's right in his eyes,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It's literally right in his face at that time of the day. At that angle, you're normally thinking it's a double over your head, but instead of really freezing or getting a bad break, he gets a great jump. He closes on the ball, finishes the play where it's probably really hard to see.”

That energy stuck with the Twins for the remainder of the game. The infield turned another slick double play to end the seventh inning, when Arraez made a barehanded catch and throw at second base on the backhand flip from shortstop . When the Twins tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, it came on a safety squeeze perfectly executed by Polanco and the newly acquired .

“Defensively, another really good effort, something that we've been able to say from the beginning of the year until now,” Baldelli said. “We expect to continue to say it. It's from the work. It didn't just show up. It's from [infield coordinator Tony Diaz] and the guys, and the outfield play's been phenomenal. The work [outfield coordinator Tommy Watkins] does with them has been great, too. It's been fun to watch from the dugout as well."

That all helped Dobnak win his fourth straight decision after the rookie right-hander allowed only three hits, including a pair of solo homers, over 5 1/3 innings. Though he’ll no longer be the Majors’ qualified ERA leader following the first outing of his career with more than one homer allowed, he remained an unexpected anchor of the starting rotation, and the Twins finally got him run support with Kepler’s blast in the bottom of the fifth, his sixth of the season.

Though Dobnak took the defense out of the picture when he hung sinkers to both Hunter Dozier and Alex Gordon on those homers, he continued to rely on the Twins' fielders as he generated a steady diet of ground balls through the remainder of his outing, with nine of his 16 outs coming on the ground.

It paid off again -- and Rosario helped it stand.

“Every time I go out there, I trust those guys,” Dobnak said. “That’s why I kind of pitch to contact. They’ve been lights-out this year behind me. That’s something every pitcher really wants to have, to trust the guys behind them, because they’re going to put balls in play, obviously. To have those plays behind you at any point is always a nice thing to have.”