Has anyone seen Eddie Rosario’s shoes? Because there’s a fair chance he left them at home plate when he won the game with a mighty swing against Padres reliever Phil Maton on Wednesday night at Target Field.

The Twins spent nine innings trying to scratch across more than one run against Padres starter Dinelson Lamet and his cohorts, but a solid effort from the youngster and a puzzling array of bunts left them coming up short. That is, until Rosario stepped up to the plate against Maton with Joe Mauer on first base.

With two outs after Brian Dozier took a called third strike and Jorge Polanco popped foul to third — sandwiched around the Mauer single — Rosario stepped to the plate and did some, well, un-Rosario-like things.

Rosario took the first two pitches from the Padres reliever. That’s something Rosario and hitting coaches James Rowson and Rudy Hernandez have been working on this season — with wonderful results — and it paid off with a 2-0 count. Rowson told Zone Coverage earlier this season that, even despite Rosario’s improved discipline, he wanted the free-swinging slugger to stay in ‘hunt’ mode.

Well, consider Maton’s 2-0 offering — a 93 mph fastball middle-in — the prey, as Rosario uncoiled, elevated and about 20 seconds later celebrated with gumballs in his face and fireworks all over the place.

Manager Paul Molitor was almost stunned speechless as he collected his thoughts during his postgame press conference.

“I don’t know how to explain sometimes when you come off a game last night, and all the sudden runs become hard to come by, even when you have good opportunities,” Molitor said. “It just had that feel when it’s 1-0 and you miss out on a couple chances to add one. You hope you can hold on, but Hedges got a hold of an offspeed pitch to get them even, and we had to scramble.”  

It was Rosario’s first walk-off win at any level — except maybe as a youngster, he thought — and he was extremely excited to have been able to deliver for his club.

“Hell yeah, it’s the moment every player should like,” Rosario said. “It was pretty awesome.”

“He’s been incredible pretty much all season,” Molitor said of Rosario. “A heads-up running play to get our first run, and he got a hitter’s count, swung about as hard as he could and hit it about as far as he could. It was a nice way to end the game. A good win.”  

It almost didn’t get to that point. Ervin Santana started for the Twins, and tossed six solid innings before leaving with his team up, 1-0. That run came across in the third inning, and it was again Rosario at center stage, as he led off the frame with a double to the right-center gap, took third on a 1-2 slider in the dirt to Max Kepler and raced home when Austin Hedges’ throw to third sailed into left field.

Santana left after 93 pitches and six innings — as well as seven strikeouts and a walk — due to Molitor not wanting to burn out his ace with three more regular-season starts looming. That is, in addition to a potential Wild Card game start.

“Ervin did a nice job of posting six zeroes for us,” Molitor said. “The velo was up from last outing. I think he felt a bit stronger. We had a good conversation after the sixth inning. We’re heading into deep territory as far as innings, so we just collaborated and thought it was best to move on. I respect that. We’re trying to keep him as ready as we can to go out there and have hopefully at least three more good outings for us.”

Both the Twins and Angels won on Wednesday evening, so the lead remains two games for Minnesota with 17 games to play.

Santana gave way to Trevor Hildenberger, who tossed a 1-2-3 seventh inning but got into trouble in the eighth. After Jabari Blash struck out swinging, Hedges poked a home run to left — one at-bat after striking out swinging on a ball that went to the backstop but didn’t result in him leaving the plate because he thought he’d made contact with the ball — to tie the game at a run apiece. It was just the third home run that Hildenberger has allowed as a big leaguer — and the first not hit by Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias.

The home run allowed by Hildenberger tied the game, but only because the Twins had multiple failures to cash in runners earlier in the game. In the fourth inning with two runners on and no one out, Byron Buxton tried to get down a bunt. He failed on the first strike, and wound up striking out swinging. Zero runs scored in the inning.

In the sixth inning, Mauer reached on an infield single. Polanco bunted him to second, Rosario grounded to the right side to move him to third, but he was stranded when Buxton struck out swinging.

The seventh was perhaps the most stunning inning. After not getting to Lamet all night, the Twins were in business as Kepler led off the inning with a single. Padres manager Andy Green went to his bullpen for Buddy Baumann, who allowed an infield single to Eduardo Escobar and hit Jason Castro with a pitch.

Castro, as luck would have it, was….trying to bunt.

So with the bases loaded and no one out, Grossman grounded into a rarely-seen 6-2-3 double play, with Dozier following that at-bat by striking out swinging against Craig Stammen to end the threat.

The Padres threatened in the ninth against Alan Busenitz, though like the Twins they also shot themselves in the foot. Designated hitter Hector Sanchez reached with a single to center, and utility infielder Jose Pirela entered as a pinch-runner. With Cory Spangenberg up, Pirela attempted to steal second and was gunned down by Castro. Spangenberg followed with a single to right, and moved to second on a walk to Erick Aybar. With two on and one out, Molitor turned to erstwhile closer Matt Belisle, who got Blash and Hedges to fly to center to neutralize the threat.

Both teams went down in order — the Twins in the ninth against Minnesotan Brad Hand and the Padres in the 10th against Belisle — which set up Rosario for the fireworks in the bottom half of the 10th.

A popular phrase among the baseball community on Twitter is “Don’t Bunt, Hit Dingers.”

It appears Mr. Rosario is a disciple of that ideology.

Notes and Quotes

  • The win evened the Twins to 37-37 at Target Field this season.
  • The Twins finished the 2017 season with a 13-7 record in Interleague play.
  • The Twins have won 10 straight Interleague games.
  • Santana has 19 quality starts in his 30 outings this season.
  • Rosario’s home run was his first career walk-off hit of any variety.
  • Mauer had his 33rd multi-hit game of the season. He’s hitting .306/.387/.418 (116 wRC+) on the season.   
  • This was Hand’s first appearance at Target Field. He’s a Chaska, Minn. native.
  • Molitor on the idea of winning the games you’re supposed to late in the season: “I think we’re trying to get these guys to not fall into the trap of ‘you’re supposed to win these games.’ We’ve been through various clubs that say ‘you gotta win; you should win’ and it just doesn’t work that way. You have to go out there and pitch, and catch it and hit it and execute. You’ve gotta move runners and be smart. Tonight, we had to fight with everything we had to try find a way to post a win. Those guys hung in there.”

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