Thursday August 22, 1991
Seattle Mariners (64-57) @ Minnesota Twins (73-49)
The Twins were sitting pretty, 5.5 games above the second place White Sox in the AL West. They were trying to complete a three-game sweep against the Seattle Mariners, a team that the Twins were already 8-4 against during the season. The Thursday afternoon game represented the final game of the season series.
Additionally, the Seattle series came at the end of an 11-game home stand in which the Twins were a disappointing 4-4 in the first eight games (they lost three of four to California and took three of four from Oakland), but the series sweep against Seattle would make the overall feel of the home stand a successful one.
Seattle Mariners Minnesota Twins 1. E Martinez 3B 1. C Knoblauch 2B 2. H Reynolds 2B 2. R Bush DH 3. K Griffey CF 3. K Puckett CF 4. P O'Brien 1B 4. K Hrbek 1B 5. J Buhner RF 5. B Harper C 6. A Davis DH 6. S Mack LF 7. G Briley LF 7. G Larkin RF 8. D Cochrane C 8. M Pagliarulo 3B 9. O Vizquel SS 9. A Newman SS R DeLucia P J Morris P
The Twins dug themselves an early hole in front of 35,874 who gathered for the Thursday matinée. Down 4-1 with one out in the ninth, Chuck Knoblauch later commented that you “could hear a pin drop” in the Metrodome. Seattle had the lead thanks to their rookie starting pitcher, Rich DeLucia, who pitched 6 1/3 innings of very good baseball against a formidable Twins offense that had averaged almost six runs per game since the All Star break.
Seattle reliever Mike Schooler came into the game to start the ninth with a three-run lead. Schooler had missed some time with injury, but had not blown a save dating back to July 12 of 1990. Since that time, Schooler had recorded 12 saves and his ERA so far in 1991 was 1.72.
Schooler started off the inning in form with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Dan Gladden. The next batter, Al Newman, coaxed a walk from Schooler, and Chuck Knoblauch’s infield single pushed Newman to second. Enter Randy Bush (from Jeff Lenihan’s account in the Star Tribune):
A year ago, Bush hit a three-run, 13th-inning homer off Schooler in Seattle. The pitch he hit then was a slider, Schooler’s best pitch, so Bush figured the reliever would start him with a fastball this time. He was right.
“All I really wanted to do was hit the ball hard and get on base for Puckett and Herbie,” Bush said. “There was no way I was thinking I had to go up there and jerk one. It was one of those situations when you just try to relax and let your instincts take over. . . . I just reacted to the pitch.”
Bush’s past three homers have come in the ninth inning. The one before that came in the eighth inning. One month ago, his ninth-inning homer off Boston’s Jeff Reardon tied a game that the Twins won in 11 innings.
Bush’s home run tied the game, but Schooler managed to retire Puckett and Hrbek to get out of the inning. After Aguilera retired the Mariners in order to start the tenth, Schooler remained in the game for his team’s half of the inning. He was able to erase a Junior Ortiz single with a ground ball double play off the bat of Shane Mack, but he was not so lucky against Scott Leius.
Leius, who entered the game in the top of the 10th, is less well-known for clutch homers. Yesterday’s homer was his fifth as a major leaguer and the rookie said he could not remember hitting an extra-inning homer to win a game at any level. He had faced Schooler twice this month, striking out and grounding out on sliders. But the 0-1 slider Schooler fed him yesterday was, according to Leius, “lazy.”
Leius took little credit. “There was nothing in it for me personally,” said Leius. “The rest of the guys played 10 innings. I was just fortunate to get a pitch I could hit.”
Stars of the Game
1. Randy Bush MIN 2-for-4, 3-run, game-tying HR
2. Rich DeLucia SEA 6.3 IP, 6 H 1 ER
3. Scott Leius MIN game-winning HR
With the win the Twins maintained the best record in baseball, six games better than anybody else in the AL West. They did not look back over the last month-plus of the season, and clinched the AL West comfortably with more than a week left to play.
Born August 22, 1956
Molitor spent the last three years of his Hall of Fame career playing for his home town Minnesota Twins. Though none of the Twins teams he played for had a winning record (the dream of having Molitor and Puckett in the same lineup vanished when Puckett was forced to retire prior to the 1996 season), he did earn his 3,000th hit in a Twins uniform.