If this Twins’ season was the latest Netflix binge-watch, you’d be mocking it for all the absurd plot twists. And you’d roast Tuesday’s epic five-hour 14-12 loss to the Yankees, in which the lead changed hands twice in the eighth inning and twice more in the ninth before finally being settled in the 10th, as the unlikeliest piece of fiction since the Game of Thrones finale.
It’s a wonder there were no dragons flying around Target Field.
There were plenty of baseballs doing so, however. The Twins crushed four home runs, the Yankees two, and the teams added 10 doubles for good measure. Both team’s starting pitchers were shredded, both team’s closers blew ninth-inning leads in you’ve-got-to-be-kidding fashion, the Twins coughed up a six-run lead, and the game didn’t end until Aaron Hicks made a diving, warning-track catch of Max Kepler’s bases-loaded blast in the 10th.
“If that’s not the game of the year so far, I don’t know what it would be,” said Kyle Gibson, who only participated in five innings of it, giving up five runs. “That’s what playoff baseball looks like — two teams not giving up.”
Ouch. He’s right, that’s what playoff baseball looks like for the 21st Century Twins — fight hard, don’t give up, and lose to the Yankees in the end. Minnesota would like to change that this year, but better pitching in the clutch will be necessary to manage it. Seven different pitchers took the mound for the Twins, and the only one who didn’t give up a run or a run-scoring hit was first-day-on-the-job Cody Stashak — who still allowed four of the nine hitters he faced to collect hits.
But Stashak’s two scoreless innings looked awfully good on a night when the teams combined for 35 hits, loaded the bases five different times, and scored runs almost as fast as the scoreboard could post them.
Miguel Sano, for instance, drove in five runs with a pair of mammoth blasts, including what seemed like the game-winner in the eighth, a 457-foot cannon shot that set off delirium among the 32,470 at Target Field.
Jorge Polanco drove in three runs, and smacked a back-to-back home run in front of Nelson Cruz for the second straight night.
But the Twins’ sluggers were outdone by Didi Gregorius’s 5-for-5, seven-RBI night, a historic performance that lands him among a quartet of former Yankees: Danny Tartabull, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Del Pratt. And Gregorius couldn’t have won without former Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks, who preceded his game-saving catch in the 10th with an even crazier clutch hit an inning earlier: A two-out, two-run shot into the Twins’ bullpen off Twins closer Taylor Rogers.
“We’ve played our fair share of these types of games this year, and this one might take the cake as far as how much happened during the game [and] the emotion you play these games with. We’ve played a handful of games that are clearly playoff-type intensity games,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “They do take a lot out of you, but they also build character at the same time. Every time a game ends like this, there is certainly some emotion. And if you lose, there is some frustration. But we can also take a ton of positives about what we see out there, both today and all these games we’ve played this week.”
Yes, but it’s still a loss in the standings, and and opportunity lost as well. Cleveland lost in extra innings in Toronto, handing the Twins, who have not won the season series against the Yankees since 2001, an opportunity to add a lead to their dwindling AL Central lead. But before the Twins, who roared to an 8-2 lead after four innings, could bank it, the Yankees came roaring back, first on Gregorious’ three-run homer off Gibson, then with a five-run, four-double eighth inning to take a 10-9 lead.
Rocco Baldelli was ejected during the inning for protesting a Tyler Duffey pitch to Luke Voit that home plate umpire Ramon De Jesus called ball four, extending the inning.
“There were two times where I thought the inning was over. And I feel pretty confident about what I saw,” Baldelli said. “And the inning ended up going on. And the Yankees ended up scoring because of it.”
Still, the Twins came back. Sano’s dramatic two-run blast off Zack Britton in the bottom of the inning put the Twins in front again, 11-10. But moments later, with the crowd on its feet, ready to celebrate the Twins’ third straight victory, Rogers issued a two-out walk to Mike Tauchman on a 3-2 fastball, and Hicks pounded Rogers’ first-pitch fastball into the bullpen.
It was the second time in four days that Rogers has been an out away from victory, with no runners on base, and still wound up surrendering the lead.
Then, ironically in a game that featured 37 different at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Twins conjured up a ninth-inning, game-tying comeback simply by taking pitches. Ehire Adrianza, Mitch Garver and Max Kepler all drew walks off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, Polanco flew out deep enough to score Adrianza and tie the game, and a 12-12 tie was taken to extra innings to settle it.
Three singles off Kohl Stewart and a wild pitch gave the Yankees their final lead, a two-run cushion that seemed tenuous again when Minnesota loaded the bases once more. But Kepler’s drive, which would have won the game, was speared by Hicks just inches off the ground.