A 2-0 fastball? On the middle half of the plate? To Eddie Rosario?
“He swung as hard as he could,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “and hit it as far as he could.”
Rosario held nothing back, launching the baseball an estimated 430 feet for a two-run, walkoff home run that gave the Twins a 3-1 victory over San Diego and sent Target Field fans into jubilation.
With one swing against Padres reliever Phil Maton, Rosario made up for Trevor Hildenberger’s pitch to Austin Hedges in the eighth inning that was hit into the flower bed in left-center for a score-tying home run that denied Ervin Santana a chance for his 16th victory.
With one swing, Rosario made up for the Twins’ half of the sixth, when Joe Mauer led off with a single but was eventually stranded at third.
And he made up for the frustrating seventh, in which the Twins loaded the bases with no outs but Robbie Grossman hit into a 6-2-3 double play, and Brian Dozier fanned on a hanging breaking ball to end the inning.
The blast, Rosario’s 23rd of the season, sent his teammates into a frenzy as they gathered to greet him at home plate. Because it looked as if they were letting one slip away in the middle of their bid for a wild-card spot.
“He’s been on a great roll,” reliever Matt Belisle said of Rosario. “He’s such a gamer. It was just elation.”
The Twins held their two-game lead over the Angels for the American League's second Wild Card spot. Seattle won to stay 3 1/2 games behind while the Royals and rangers both lost to fall four games behind Minnesota.
Rosario accounted for all the Twins runs. He doubled in the second inning, then advanced to third when Padres righthander Dinelson Lamet threw a wild pitch. Catcher Austin Hedges tried to throw out Rosario at third, but the ball sailed down the left field line and allowed Rosario to score.
Runs were hard to come by after that, as the hard-throwing Lamet kept the Twins bats quiet. Santana was … Santana, pitching his eighth scoreless start of the season. He picked up the victory the first seven times.
It was another good-looking line for Santana in a season full of them: six scoreless innings, three hits, one walk, seven strikeouts. He began the night ninth in the American League with a 3.45 ERA and watched it drop to 3.35. The few hits has been a constant, as Santana began the night holding opponents to a .223 batting average.
Molitor said before the game he was watching Santana’s innings as he closes in on 200 for the season. Those concerns led to Santana being removed from the game.
He held a 1-0 lead as he walked off the mound, with his 16th victory in his clutches, but the path was met with resistance.
Hildenberger pitched a spotless seventh but left a 1-0 pitch to Hedges over the plate in the eighth. The catcher atoned for his error with his 17th homer.
Then, when the Twins bungled scoring opportunities in the late innings, it appeared as if they were going to give away a game to the 65-81 Padres.
The Twins have been able to shake off bad losses. On Wednesday, they shook off a couple bad innings. Mauer hit a one-out single in the 10th before Rosario ended it.
“A nice way to end the game,” Molitor said. “A good win.”
Santana is not going to be consumed with personal victories with something bigger at stake.
“It’s great for us,” Santana said, “and [got] the momentum going for the team. It was fun, especially the way we won the game, Rosie’s first walkoff.”