The last time Edwin Jackson was an All-Star, he was in his first stint with the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins were playing in their last year in the Metrodome. Jackson, 25, was a part of the Detroit team that lost Game 163 to the Twins, then bounced around the league for 10 years before signing with the Tigers after being released by the Toronto Blue Jays this year.
Yet there Jackson was, in the fifth inning of a game the Twins had to win to stay 2.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central, with a 4-1 lead.
Luis Arraez had committed an error at second base. Minnesota had thrown behind a runner heading home in a rundown. C.J. Cron had allowed a player to squeeze past him on a cutoff to get back to first base. And Kyle Gibson was laboring through a 5.1-inning start.
This game had disaster written all over it. In front of the 10th sellout crowd of the season no less.
But Jake Cave, providing depth for an outfield that lacked Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario, delivered a fifth-inning double that kicked off a five-run inning that sent Jackson home and kept the Tigers from taking a series the Twins should win.
“Yeah, this offense never quits, you know?” said Gibson, who allowed a leadoff runner in each of the six innings he pitched. “We just kept putting the pressure on them and kept putting the ball in play and it found some barrels when it really mattered. Miggy came up with a big swing there to take the lead there in I guess it was the fifth.”
Miggy being Miguel Sano, whose three-run homer off of Jackson in the fifth inning put the Twins ahead 6-4. Cave homered again in the sixth inning in what was ultimately an 8-5 win.
“It was good to see our guys kinda rally and come together and have some really nice at-bats and get some energy going in our favor,” said Rocco Baldelli. “Early in the game it was tough. It wasn’t the cleanest game for sure and it is something we have to do better. We have to complete those plays and give our pitches and ourselves a better chance.”
On the rundown, specifically, Baldelli said that it’s hard to prepare for and that he relies on his players to make the right play in that situation.
“They’re not conventional plays that you’re gonna ever work on, spend time on,” he said. “You have to trust in your players’ ability and instincts when stuff happens during the game.”
As for Cron missing the tag, he felt like that was an anomaly as well.
“That’s not an issue 99 out of 100 times. He caught the ball on a spot on the field where he just wasn’t sure where he was, tried to make the tag, and realized that the base was just a little ways off,” he said.
“When they happen kinda consecutively, you know, sometimes they’re tough to overcome because…the energy of everything going on kinda goes down a little bit, and that’s what makes everything else that happened after that impressive. Because our guys didn’t let that affect them going forward in the game.”
This is what has separated the this year’s Twins from teams of the recent past, and made them more like the teams of the late 2000s. They’re able to win close games, power through sloppy ones and overcome injuries to key players — especially Buxton. What looked like a potentially ugly loss turned into a win, which makes it easier to forgive the mistakes made along the way.