MINNEAPOLIS -- Before Sunday's game, manager Paul Molitor said he is trying to "be creative without being foolish" when it comes to filling out his lineup card each day.
With the Twins hindered by a handful of injuries to everyday players, Molitor unveiled one of his most creative batting orders of the season on Sunday, and it paid major dividends. The Twins topped the Angels, 7-5, at Target Field to salvage a win after scoring just three runs in the first two games of the series.
"It feels good," Molitor said. "[Wins] have been hard to come by. As much as we've had a winning homestand, it kind of feels like a roller coaster. When you lose, it's been tough because the games have felt winnable. That's kind of been the theme. All of our losses feel like, 'Man, just so close and not finding ways.'''
In his second game back from Triple-A Rochester, Jake Cave went 3-for-4 and launched a 418-foot, two-run homer in the fifth inning. With James Dozier out of the lineup for a rest day, Eduardo Escobar made his first start at second base since August and Robbie Grossman batted leadoff for the third time this season.
The unconventional combination produced seven runs in the first six innings and helped alleviate some early struggles from Twins starter Fernando Romero.
Romero walked the Angels' first batter of the game, Ian Kinsler, on five pitches, and the outing nearly snowballed from there. He threw a wild pitch to Michael Trout and then Mitch Garver let another pitch by, allowing Kinsler to advance to third. Romero then intentionally walked Justin Upton after he ran him up to a 3-0 count, and Jose Pujols followed with an RBI single to center field.
In the fourth inning, Romero put on four of the first five batters he faced and had already surrendered two runs with the Angels' 2-3-4 hitters due up, but he worked his way out of the jam.
"I think he had Trout and Pujols coming up in the situation, where it could have turned into a big inning," Molitor said. "He did a nice job there. I was trying to give him an opportunity the best I could and it worked out today. It might not in the future, but sometimes you've got to give an opportunity to a guy to get out of his own mess."
In five innings, Romero struck out five, but threw two wild pitches, walked two batters and hit two more. Minnesota's offense came to his rescue immediately and didn't let up the rest of the afternoon.
Logan Morrison blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to give the Twins the lead back. In the fifth inning, Garver doubled to right and Cave followed with a single to drive him home. Ehire Adrianza then drilled a triple to the right-field corner and later scored when Escobar smacked his 25th double of the season.
After drawing a walk in the sixth, Max Kepler stole his first base of the season. He didn't stay put long. Two batters later, Cave deposited Jim Johnson's 3-2 fastball into the Minnesota bullpen.
"It definitely made my job easier when I was coming up to bat with guys on second base or guys just drew walks," Cave said. "I could stand on deck and time up some pitches and that kind of thing. That's where hitters help each other out and where stuff gets kind of contagious."
A Minnesota bullpen quartet of Taylor Rogers, Addison Reed, Zach Duke and Fernando Rodney each threw an inning to finish off the last half of the game. Rodney allowed the first two runners he faced to reach base in the ninth, and later gave up a two-run single to Pujols. Rodney then walked Luis Valbuena to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. But he forced Zack Cozart to pop out and end the game.
The Twins are 26-13 this season in games in which they score four or more runs. They are 14-11 in games in which they score first.
HE SAID IT
"I didn't know, I just knew I hit it well. I put my head down and, obviously, I know who's out there in center field. I saw him kind of jump and I didn't see the ball, but I heard the crowd start cheering, so I was like, 'Oh, I think that ball got by him.' So that was cool. I know I'm probably not allowed to say this, but he's probably my favorite player. So to be able to hit some balls out there to him today and to be on the same field as him, it was an honor, really." -- Cave, on his eighth-inning double over the head of a leaping Trout
The Twins will get a day off on Monday before traveling to Detroit for a three-game set with the Tigers. Jake Odorizzi will get the start for Minnesota in search of his fourth win of the season. He will square off with Detroit lefty Blaine Hardy (2-1, 3.66 ERA).