By Joe Christensen
Twins pitcher Livan Hernandez was in the on-deck circle, working on his swing, when Howie Clark delivered the game-winning hit in Monday’s 7-6, 12-inning victory over Texas.
A few minutes later, we writers were in the hallway outside the Twins’ clubhouse, trying to unscramble our brains. I decided the only thing that could have made this night any zanier was a Livan pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam, with a mosh-pit celebration at home plate.
Loyal readers, there might have been no game story. At that point, I might have closed the computer and called it a career.
The first deadline was 9:45. So I spent the first part of the game, crafting a story about Alexi Casilla’s unlikely three-run homer helping Boof Bonser get his first win of May.
OK, then Boof made the error. So as that first deadline approached, the story became a hodge-podge — Guerrier saves the day, Texas still takes the lead against Reyes — and then, of course, Mauer ties it in the ninth with a single.
Fortunately, we have an excellent copy desk at the Star Tribune, especially the gifted Ken Chia, who saves me time after time. I’m sure he took care of me for those first editions, which had to be off the floor about 10:15.
My next deadline was 11 p.m. And it seemed like a gift from sports writer heaven when Bobby Korecky nearly pulled this 11th-inning trifecta — first major league hit, first major-league run, first major-league win.
I had the story all set to go. But then, Morneau struck out, and Cuddyer grounded out, stranding Korecky at third. (Cuddyer stranded nine runners on base tonight, by the way.)
Well, it was sort of back to the drawing board at that point. Slot editor Jeff Rivers told me he needed something by the end of the 12th inning, even if it was a running story (ie: the game was in the 13th inning when this edition of the Star Tribune went to press), and this wound up saving me.
I had to make that story look like it was finished, even if the game wasn’t. So, I was pretty well prepared when Clark hit the game-winner. Of course, I had no contingency plan for a Livan pinch-hit, or a Livan walk-off. I think my head would have just exploded.
By the way, only four other Twins pitchers (besides Bobby Korecky) had come to bat for the Twins in an American League game since the DH rule was instituted in 1973. None of them got a hit like Korecky did, but here’s the list:
1. Vic Albury on July 12, 1975 at New York (Pat Dobson struck him out).
2. Bill Campbell on July 12, 1975 at New York (Pat Dobson struck him out, too).
3. Ray Fontenot on Aug. 24, 1986 at Toronto (Tom Henke struck him out.)
4. Allan Anderson on June 13, 1989 vs. Seattle (Jerry Reed struck him out.)
5. Matt Garza on July 6, 2007 at Chicago (He struck out and grounded out against Gavin Floyd).