MINNEAPOLIS -- Versatile catcher Willians Astudillo is doing everything possible to be part of the Twins' plans in 2019, while Christopher Austin is trying to prove he can be counted on as a slugging first baseman/designated hitter next year.Both players had big nights in the series finale against the Tigers
MINNEAPOLIS -- Versatile catcher Willians Astudillo is doing everything possible to be part of the Twins' plans in 2019, while Christopher Austin is trying to prove he can be counted on as a slugging first baseman/designated hitter next year.
Both players had big nights in the series finale against the Tigers on Thursday, as Astudillo went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, while Austin doubled twice and drove in three runs to lead the Twins to a 9-3 win at Target Field.
"We're getting a chance to see a lot of people and some guys are really performing," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Astudillo again tonight, just keeps finding a way. Put the ball in play, and hitting in the right spot, driving in runs, and Austin did a nice job too, getting a couple of two-strike doubles to drive in three."
Astudillo bounced back from a rare strikeout in the second, just his third in 26 games this season, and his first since Aug. 29. He was the lone Major Leaguer without a strikeout in September with a minimum of 50 plate appearances. He later ripped a two-run single as part of a five-run third and pulled a two-run double down the left-field line as part of a four-run fifth. It helped him improve his slash line to .357/.372/.524 in 86 plate appearances.
"I'm just trying to go out there and swing at good pitches, and it's working out for me so far," Astudillo said through an interpreter. "Just swinging at good pitches, and thankfully I'm executing."
After Joe Mauer doubled home a run in the third to open the scoring for the Twins, Austin smacked a two-run double with the bases loaded. He later scored on Astudillo's two-run single with two outs. Austin sparked another rally in the fifth with an RBI ground-rule double. He again scored on another hit from Astudillo, this time a two-run double. Max Kepler followed with an RBI single to score Astudillo.
"It's important, these guys that are trying to get at least somewhat established," Molitor said. "It takes longer than a month to get yourself on the map, but you can make an impression. Heading into camp next year, we're going to be in a little different shape than we were heading into this year's camp. So, there's going to be opportunity."
The offense helped make up for early struggles from opener Gabriel Moya and primary pitcher Stephen Gonsalves. Moya, serving as the opener for the sixth time this year and the fourth time against Detroit, allowed a run in the first on a sacrifice fly after giving up two straight hits to open the game.
Gonsalves, making his seventh and final appearance of his rookie season, went 3 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits. He suffered control issues, walking four, including the first two batters he faced in the second inning. Both came around to score on an RBI groundout from Jeimer Candelario and an RBI single from Christin Stewart. But he settled down from there to pick up the win, finishing the year by going 2-2 with a 6.57 ERA in 24 2/3 innings.
The bullpen was otherwise solid, including Matt Magill, who got out of a bases loaded jam with one out in the fifth with a pair of strikeouts. Magill threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, while Alan Busenitz, Zack Littell and John Curtiss each tossed a scoreless frame.
"We had to piece it together a little bit," Molitor said. "Moya giving up one early, but he did a nice job of minimizing. And Stephen had the command issues again, so he didn't get to stick around too long. But everyone else finished up nicely."
MAUER REACHES MILESTONE
With his RBI double in the third, Mauer recorded the 600th extra-base hit of his career, joining Harmon Killebrew (728), Kirby Puckett (678) and Kent Hrbek (623) as the only Twins players to reach 600 extra-base hits. Mauer has 427 doubles, 30 triples and 143 homers in his career.
Moya, serving as the opener for the fourth time against the Tigers since Sept. 17, became the first pitcher to start four times against one team in 10 days since Grover Lowdermilk did so in 1918 for the St. Louis Browns, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
HE SAID IT
"He doesn't get to two strikes all that often. I was surprised to see a couple three-ball counts today. Liriano's slider got him. Not sure if he tried to hold up or chop one or do something. But I think the ratio is pretty good. A 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and you don't even have to do math to figure it out. So, it's pretty good." -- Molitor, on Astudillo, who has three strikeouts and one walk in 26 games
The Twins finish the 2018 season with a four-game series against the White Sox that begins with a split doubleheader Friday at Target Field. It could be veteran first baseman Joe Mauer's final games with the Twins and he's expected to play in all four contests. Right-hander Jose Berrios (11-11, 3.93 ERA) starts in Game 1 at 1:10 p.m. CT, while right-hander Chase De Jong (0-1, 3.86) will take the mound in Game 2 at 7:10 p.m. CT. Chicago will counter with right-handers Reynaldo Lopez (7-9, 3.94) and Lucas Giolito (10-12, 5.81), respectively.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.