Mastroianni's aggression leads Twins past Tribe

Mastroianni's aggression leads Twins past Tribe

Mastroianni's aggression leads Twins past Tribe
CLEVELAND -- Darin Mastroianni stood in front of the TV, watching his virtual self sprint around the bases. At last, he saw why third-base coach Steve Liddle ushered him home and how he crossed the plate with the go-ahead run.

It seemed as though the Twins wouldn't be afforded another chance on Tuesday. When that extra opportunity surfaced, however, Mastroianni was ready.

The speedy outfielder hustled home from second base on a single to the cut of the right-field grass as the Twins outlasted the Indians in 12 innings, 6-5, on a chilly night at Progressive Field.

"At that point in the game, you just need the ball to land out there and see what happens," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Mastroianni didn't know where the ball landed as he rushed around the bases in the 12th, but it didn't matter. The rookie singled and stole second base with two outs. Alexi Casilla then pulled a grounder to short right field, where Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis corralled and tossed the baseball to first baseman Matt LaPorta. Anticipating a clean hit to right, LaPorta had trotted toward the middle of the diamond to serve as a cutoff man. That allowed Casilla to beat him in a foot race to first, and Mastroianni scampered home.

"You don't think. You see the ball go through," Indians manager Manny Acta said of LaPorta's gaffe. "You have to see the ball go through before you decide to become a cutoff man. That's pretty much a routine ball to second base. Plus, if that ball goes through, we don't need a cutoff man. It was too softly hit and they have one of the fastest guys in the game running with two outs. It was a big mental mistake there."

With two strikes and two outs, Mastroianni darted toward third as soon as he saw Casilla begin his swinging motion. When he saw Liddle waving him home, he knew something was awry.

"I knew it didn't get through the infield, but I didn't know if it was bobbled or what," Mastroianni said. "I kind of peeked back to see what was going on and saw Matt had the ball at first, and the umpire called him safe, and at that point, I just had to get to the plate before the ball got there."

It was a redeeming display of hustle for Mastroianni, the New York native who is batting .252 in 75 games as a rookie.

With the Twins and Indians deadlocked in a 4-4 tie, Mastroianni pinch-ran for Ryan Doumit, who opened the eighth inning with a double. Mastroianni, however, was caught straying too far off second base on a comebacker to Tribe pitcher Vinnie Pestano, who nabbed the 27-year-old for a crucial first out.

"I wasn't happy about that," Mastroianni said. "When you're put in as a baserunner, you can't make mistakes like that. I didn't think there was any way Vinnie was going to get that ball. Trevor [Plouffe] hit it hard, and from my angle, I thought it was going to get by him, so I took off. Then he jabbed his glove down and made a great play."

Gardenhire opted to credit Pestano's impeccable reflexes rather than chide Mastroianni's aggressiveness.

"I know the old rule is 'make it go by the pitcher,' but that pitcher made a [heck] of a play," Gardenhire said. "He snagged that ball. That ball was a rocket. I don't even know how he caught it. I don't care -- good baserunner, bad baserunner -- that was a really tough baserunning play."

Still, the Twins couldn't convert countless opportunities to commandeer the lead late in the contest. In the seventh, after Minnesota had rallied to tie the game at 4, Justin Morneau grounded into an inning-ending double play to prevent any further scoring. In the ninth, Morneau grounded out with runners and the corners and two outs.

Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who leads AL hitters in on-base percentage and is challenging for his fourth career AL batting crown, reached base in each of his five trips to the plate, singling in his first three at-bats and walking in his final two. He upped his average to .325.

In the end, though, it boiled down to aggression on the basepaths.

Minnesota finally broke through against the Indians' club-record 10th pitcher of the night, southpaw Scott Maine. Mastroianni felt relieved he could make up for the previous baserunning blunder. It was just as rewarding on the TV replays as it was during the actual dash to the plate.

"As far as aggressive baserunning, that's what he is," Gardenhire said. "That's what he brings to this team. He's going to make some outs out there, but he's also going to make some big plays, just like he did tonight. We'll take the big plays over those outs."

Zack Meisel is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @zackmeisel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.