Baseball / Sports

Kurt Suzuki has big role in Twins' 5-4 win over White Sox

MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer migrated to catcher after last season, and the Minnesota Twins scoured the free agent market for a replacement.

They offered former Twin A.J. Pierzynski a two-year deal, but he went to Boston for one. They offered Jarrod Saltalamacchia a two-year deal, but he went to the Marlins for three years.

Signing Kurt Suzuki at the time appeared to be a fallback option. Looking at it now, who fell back to who?

Suzuki continued his impressive season on Friday against the Chicago White Sox as he collected three hits and threw out a runner at second in a game that was eventually won 5-4 on a Brian Dozier walk-off single after Glen Perkins blew the save.

Before the drama, Suzuki was clutch once again, driving in a run in the third as the Twins came back from an early deficit.

Suzuki is batting .314 with two home runs and 32 RBI. Saltalamacchia entered Friday batting .239 with six home runs and 17 RBI. Pierzynski entered Friday batting .267 with four homers and 30 RBI. Suzuki entered Friday leading AL catchers with a .789 on base-plus-slugging percentage.

Suzuki, once again, had a hand in the Twins' comeback win.

Down 2-0 in the second, Kendrys Morales walked and Suzuki doubled over Dayan Viciedo in right, putting runners on second and third. Oswaldo Arcia was hit by pitch to load the bases. Eduardo Escobar, another surprising player this season, doubled in two runs to tie the game, and Sam Fuld added a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2.

Joe Mauer singled and eventually scored on Suzuki's infield single into the deep hole at short as the Twins took a 4-2 lead.

Throwing out runners isn't Suzuki's strong suit: He has caught only 19 percent of would-be base stealers. But he did throw out Conor Gillaspie attempting to swipe second in the third inning.

One of his strengths has been clutch hitting. Driving in Mauer lifted his batting average to .347 with runners in scoring position.

The Twins' offense rose up after righthander Ricky Nolasco has them in a 2-0 hole in the first inning -- a loud 2-0 hole.

Gordon Beckham opened the scoring with a home run to left field that traveled an estimated 415 feet. Two batters later, Nolasco tried to throw a fastball inside to Jose Abreu that he didn't quite get inside enough, and Abreu hit that one 410 feet and into the bullpens in left center.

Nolasco was able to pitch 5? innings but labored in some innings. He had thrown 14 pitches when Twins manager Ron Gardenhire went to the mound to replace him with Matt Guerrier. It was the third consecutive straight start and fifth in his last seven starts that he's failed to pitch at least six innings.

Guerrier came on with two runners on base but got two fly balls to get out of the inning and keep Nolasco in line for the win. The Twins used Caleb Thielbar and Jared Burton before Glen Perkins took over in the ninth, when Chicago rallied to tie the score.

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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