CINCINNATI — Twins and Reds fans may regret that their teams don't play more often than every three years. The teams' bullpens are undoubtedly grateful.
One day after turning a loss into a victory on Jorge Polanco's ninth-inning homer, the Twins rallied from a five-run deficit with four runs in the eighth. But the comeback fell one run short, and the Twins left Great American Ball Park with a 6-5 loss and a split of the back-and-forth two-game series.
Their two games at Target Field in June were the same way, too: lots off offense, plenty of big home runs and late-inning uprisings galore. In splitting four games, both teams scored at least five runs in each, including a fasten-your-seatbelts total of 24 runs in the eighth inning or later, 16 of them by Minnesota.
"The games we've played against them have been hard-fought," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "We got ourselves back in this game. We had a chance to win. [We didn't] get it done, but I'll tell you this: The resiliency and the toughness from our guys is showing up."
It showed up in the form of two walks, three doubles and a single against three Reds relievers in that four-run inning, which ended with Ryan Jeffers on third base and Max Kepler on second when Brent Rooker struck out.
And the most decisive pitch of the inning may have been one that didn't draw a swing. With one out and Jeffers representing the tying run at first base, Josh Donaldson fouled off three tough pitches from Reds righthander Michael Lorenzen. The fourth pitch, a 97 mph fastball, arrived a few inches off the plate, but umpire DJ Reyburn ruled it a third strike.
"Josh is competitive, so he's not happy with it," Baldelli said. "But we're going to take that shot with JD every time. [He gives us] a chance to make something happen."
Luis Arraez tried to make something happen in the ninth, too, reaching base for the fifth time on the day by lacing a one-out single to right. But Miguel Sano short-circuited the scoring chance for the second time in four innings by grounding into a double play to end the game.
It was almost surprising, that the trailing team didn't complete its comeback, since the three previous games between these teams were decided by runs scored in the final inning. And the Twins managed to score 16 runs in 16⅓ innings against the Reds' bullpen this season, a statistic that suggests sweep, not split.
"Things didn't go easily for either team," Baldelli said after the Twins lost for the seventh time in 10 games. "But that's OK."
Charlie Barnes was OK, too, but also felt like he missed an opportunity. Making his second career start, the lefthander had two easy innings, and after a leadoff single, got two quick outs in the third. But though he got ahead of Jesse Winker 0-and-2, Barnes eventually walked Winker, "and that was kind of the tipping point of the inning," Barnes said. "Just really attacking and getting the left-on-left [matchup] there, it would be a different ballgame."
Instead, Kyle Farmer followed with a single to tie the game, and Joey Votto, again with two strikes, drove an opposite-field double that scored two. Tyler Stephenson then singled Votto home, and the Reds were rolling.
"I just have to execute a little better, and that's something Wes [Johnson, Twins pitching coach] and I discussed after," Barnes said. "I've just got to find a way to get us off the field right there."