MILWAUKEE – The Twins split a two-game series with the Brewers this week, which sounds mundane, almost boring. Everything came out even? Yawn.
But here’s what really happened: Euphoria. Devastation. Celebration. Heartache.
Pennant-race baseball, Twins-style, seems to be nothing but crazy swings of passion.
“These are emotional games,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli understated after Minnesota’s latest are-you-kidding loss, 6-5 at Miller Park. “By the end, you’re pretty tired.”
This time, the dramatic twist came courtesy of the heretofore perfect Sergio Romo, who had earned saves in two of his six appearances for the Twins and holds in the other four.
Romo surrendered a 400-foot, three-run, eighth-inning home run to Milwaukee rookie Trent Grisham, turning a two-run lead into another agonizing loss. Grisham’s second career homer landed in the second deck of the right field stands and prevented the Twins from extending their lead over Cleveland in the AL Central.
“I was just telling [his teammates], we played well today. We could have come out with a win,” Romo said. “Those guys [Brewers] are good, too. They’re in the heat of things for a reason.”
The Twins remain in first place by a half-game as they travel to Texas for a four-game series with the Rangers, but this loss — just the latest in a remarkable series of games decided with late-inning comebacks and dramatic home runs — will likely sting just as much as Tuesday’s startling Twins rally sparked glee.
“This game can be emotionally draining, for sure,” said Kyle Gibson, who soldiered through five difficult innings but left with a lead. “That’s why it’s important to have veteran leaders who have gone through it and can keep the mentality going in the right direction. We really need to avoid all the ups and downs.”
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Hasn’t happened lately. The Twins have blown five saves in August and have rallied back at the end almost as often. It’s almost hard to believe that when Matt Albers walked the bases loaded in the ninth inning, the Twins didn’t receive the grand slam that the script seemed to call for.
Gibson’s outing followed the same trajectory as that of Jake Odorizzi and Martin Perez, both of whom put runners on base every inning yet still worked out of trouble enough to give the Twins’ hitters a chance to catch up. The righthander allowed eight hits and issued three walks in his five innings, but the Brewers were only 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
“It feels like the leadoff batter, even when you make good pitches, somehow has found ways to get on base every time, and then the innings take a while,” Baldelli said of his starting rotation. “You end up throwing more pitches, and you have to work to get through it. Our guys have done a good job of getting through those situations, even with guys on base a lot. And not a ton of those guys have ended up scoring.”
Meanwhile, Mitch Garver, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano all homered, and Jorge Polanco provided a couple of insurance runs with a two-out, bases-loaded hit.
But a lead built gradually over three hours disappeared in just a matter of minutes. Romo, acquired from the Marlins at the trade deadline, took over in the eighth inning and got Ryan Braun to hit a ground ball to Polanco. But the shortstop’s throw to first base was low, and the ball skidded past C.J. Cron. Hernan Perez followed with a single to center, and Braun took third. And both runners raised their arms in celebration when Romo left an 87 mph, 2-2 fastball over the heart of the plate against Grisham, whose blast ignited the matinee crowd of 41,077.
“I tried to make good pitches, and pitch to my strengths, and I just missed. I don’t like to make a lot of mistakes, because the mistakes I make, with the situation I’m privileged to be pitching in, they’re loud,” Romo said. “They’re loud. It hurts. I ain’t gonna lie, it hurts.”
It’s the second straight night that a Twins reliever allowed a late home run to surrender a lead, and that’s becoming epidemic for this team; only Baltimore’s awful staff has allowed more home runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings than the Twins’ 55. Ryne Harper gave up a three-run shot to Yasmani Grandal on Tuesday, though the Twins rallied to win.
There was no rally this time, though Brewers reliever Matt Albers did his best to spark one. With two outs, Albers walked Polanco, Sano and Rosario, throwing 11 consecutive balls at one point to load the bases. Cron then hammered a 1-2 fastball to the warning track in center field, but Lorenzo Cain caught it to end the game.