M's Late Strategy Backfires -- Facing Extra Infielder, Twins Win On Bloop Single
Seattle Times Staff Reporter
MINNEAPOLIS - When it ended, the infield looked like Pike Place Market on Saturday morning - people all over.
The Minnesota Twins, trying to break a tie last night in a game the Mariners had led 4-0, had three men on base.
Seattle inserted a fifth infielder, Rafael Bournigal playing just to the right and in front of second base.
Add three umpires, and the diamond was at least as full as the grandstand.
"I think, for a while, we were as worried about falling over one another as anything else," first baseman David Segui said.
Matt Lawton, on Jose Paniagua's 2-2 pitch, did what the Twins did all night - placed it where the Mariners weren't - to give Minnesota a 5-4 win at the Metrodome. Lawton flipped the ball into short left where Ken Griffey Jr. waited impatiently for it to come down from the first bounce, knowing that Jacques Jones could not break from third until he knew it was going to fall in.
"I thought I had a chance for a throw home, until I saw Danny (Wilson) step in front of the plate," said Griffey, alone in the outfield with Jay Buhner in right-center. "It was a long wait for it to come down, then it was too late."
When Minnesota put runners on second and third, via Ron Coomer's leadoff single and Marty Cordova's double inside third, Mariner Manager Lou Piniella ordered Todd Walker intentionally walked to load the bases, then inserted Bournigal in the infield in place of left fielder Ozzie Timmons.
"There isn't much you can do," Piniella said. "I've seen the five-man infield work in that situation before. Maybe you'll get lucky."
Seattle could have created its own luck earlier, but went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and scored only on two two-run homers, Timmons' first since 1996 for a 2-0 lead in the fourth and Griffey's 31st of the season in the next inning.
But while the Mariners hit them for distance, the Twins hit them for more effect. With 13 hits, four doubles and nine singles, Minnesota threatened early against John Halama, rallied against Halama and reliever Paniagua in the sixth and seventh, and then won.
When it was noted Minnesota ping-ponged the ball all around the field, Piniella growled, "I wish we'd ping-pong it once in a while, too."
Third baseman Russ Davis noted how hard the Twins can be to defend.
"They try to drop a couple of bunts, and when you play in against that, they slap the ball by you, or hit grounders," he said. "They hit outside pitches to left, they fist inside pitches to right. You never know what they are going to do."
Halama, coming off a poor 2 1/3-inning start against Arizona, escaped with the bases loaded and one out in the first and with runners on second and third and one out in the second.
From there, the left-hander found a rhythm and cruised through the fifth, facing only 11 batters.
Meantime, the Mariner offense went similarly against Twins starter La Troy Hawkins. Seattle had a chance in the second, when Edgar Martinez placed a double between third baseman Brent Gates and the bag. But Hawkins set down Buhner, Segui and Timmons.
Then the Mariners repeated the frustration in the third, when Wilson led off with a single and Davis walked.
Martinez opened the fourth with a double identical to that in the second. And it appeared the Mariners would blow this chance as it had the previous two when Buhner fanned for the first of three times and Segui grounded out.
But with Seattle 0 for 8 with men in scoring position already, Timmons finally broke through by pounding a 1-0 pitch out to center for a 2-0 lead, his first home run since he was with the Cubs. An inning later, Griffey hit a two-run homer of his own.
Halama held it there for one easy inning, then the Twins made it 4-1 in the sixth on two bloop singles.
The Twins tied it with three runs in the seventh. The first was a Cristian Guzman double inside third, and the key hit a double by Coomer that hit the right-field line.
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