The Minnesota Twins have played some wild games this season.
On June 18, they played 17 innings before walking off the Boston Red Sox, 4-3.
Nine days later, they played 18 innings before falling to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-2.
Almost a month later, the Twins lost maybe the game of the year — the Aaron Hicks revenge game, as you may recall — in a 14-12 thriller against the New York Yankees. That was a 10-inning game that lasted five hours, three minutes.
Tuesday night’s was cut from a similar cloth, as it took the Twins four hours and 51 minutes — and 12 innings — to dispatch the Chicago White Sox, 9-8.
Things got pretty wild along the way.
After a couple scoreless innings, the Twins broke through with a five-spot against White Sox fill-in starter Ross Detwiler in the third. The Twins had three run-scoring, extra-base hits in the inning, as Ryan LaMarre opened the inning and the scoring with his third MLB homer, and Eddie Rosario followed with an RBI double.
But the big blow came off the bat of Miguel Sano, who obliterated a 92 mph fastball into the third deck for a home run that Statcast measured at 482 feet. There’s little dispute that Jim Thome’s 490-foot home run back on July 17, 2011 is the longest in Target Field history. After that, there’s some debate over whether Sano’s home run ranks second or third, since Statcast also has Kennys Vargas hitting a home run 483 feet on June 20, 2017 — also against the White Sox.
Sano’s home run gave him 30 on the season — and gave the Twins five hitters with 30 long balls, an MLB record.
“Has that ever happened before?” manager Rocco Baldelli asked in earnest after the game before being informed that it had not. “It’s never happened before? I’m not surprised. We had high expectations. I say that all the time. When we showed up in spring training, we knew our guys were really talented.
“We knew we had a talented group of players. Guys that could do things. They could do big things. It’s really, really awesome just personally on my end for all the staff to watch all of these guys reach and continue to grow as players and see their potential. We’re seeing what these guys are capable of and it’s really great.”
From there, Chicago chipped away with a single run in the fourth inning and two runs in the fifth and sixth to tie it up at five runs apiece.
The big blow — or blows, in this case — came on back-to-back pitches from Trevor May in the sixth. Zack Collins hit an elevated fastball into the stands in right for his second major-league home run, and on the next pitch Adam Engel followed with a home run into the left-field stands to tie the game. That marked the eighth time the White Sox had gone back-to-back this season.
Things stayed tied until the 11th, though there wasn’t a shortage of opportunities for the game to go one way or the other in the late innings.
Taylor Rogers wriggled out of a ninth-inning jam after the Sox opened it by reaching on a Jorge Polanco error and a fielder’s choice when Rogers made an ill-advised throw to second on a comebacker. Rogers rebounded to get a double play off the bat of Jose Abreu and struck out Eloy Jimenez to avoid any damage, and gave the Twins their first crack at walking it off.
In the 10th, the Sox started with a pair of singles from Yoan Moncada and James McCann against Zack Littell. Yolmer Sanchez bunted both runners over, and the Twins countered by intentionally walking Collins to load the bases. Ryan Goins hit for Engel and fouled out to third base, and Leury Garcia hit a ball to medium-deep right that Luis Arraez had no trouble corralling to quell the threat.
Littell came back out for the 11th, but gave up a home run to Tim Anderson to open the inning, giving the White Sox their first lead of the night. Littell navigated the rest of the inning with minimal trouble, but the home run allowed to Anderson was not only the first long ball he’d allowed since July 20, but the first run of any kind he’d allowed since then.
The Twins fought back with a leadoff single from Jonathan Schoop in the bottom half, and LaMonte Wade Jr. entered as a pinch runner. C.J. Cron — who has been battling thumb issues recently — pinch-hit and grounded to third, which allowed Wade to pick up second base.
The pivotal play, however, was when Wade picked up third base after Kelvin Herrera’s cutter in the dirt squirted a few feet away from McCann. It looked a bit risky at the outset, but Wade got a terrific jump and beat the throw — which wasn’t handled cleanly by Moncada, anyway — by an eyelash.
“I saw the ball out the hand, and the ball was down,” Wade said of the decision to break for third. “It kicked off a little bit. I thought it kicked off a little further than it did, but once I got that far, no hesitation, or else you’d get out. So I just kept going, and I went with it, and luckily I got there.”
Despite the ball only rolling a few feet away from the plate, Wade said he never doubted he’d make it to third.
“I was confident,” Wade said, beaming. “I was confident that I would make it.”
Baldelli said it was a good read by Wade.
“I think it’s a good read, first of all,” Baldelli said. “I’ve got to give him the credit to go. It’s a close play. It’s one of those where if you’re out by six inches, you’re going, ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’ It’s always easier standing where we’re standing and everyone watching the game, it’s a lot easier than being the guy on second base who is making the decision to go on a dirt ball.
“But when a catcher has to block a ball or a ball is in the dirt, it’s a challenging play to get up, make a play and make a good throw. It doesn’t happen most of the time, I would say, but the aggressiveness paid off.”
The advancement to third allowed Wade to trot home with the tying run when Mitch Garver hit a fly ball to medium-deep center field — with Garcia strangely not making any sort of attempt to throw the runner out at the plate.
“We did talk about it a little bit,” Baldelli said when asked if the dugout was surprised at Garcia’s lack of effort on the throw. “Mildly surprised. But that does happen. Obviously, it’s improbable. He’s probably deeper than people think, like ‘Well he’s not deep, so he probably should throw the ball.’ That’s not always the case. But I would say in general, it’s not a huge surprise — but a little bit.”
Ryne Harper was the next reliever out of the chute, and he got the first hitter to ground to second before walking Collins. Danny Mendick pinch-ran for Collins, but it wound up being pinch-trotting as Ryan Cordell crushed a homer into the bullpens in left-center to give the White Sox an 8-6 lead.
Harper gave up two more hits but ultimately got out of the inning without incurring further damage — and again it was time for the offense to go to work.
Flamethrowing righty Jose Ruiz entered for the White Sox, and was greeted by five hits from the first six batters he faced — a Cruz single, a Rosario double, a two-run, game-tying single for Gonzalez, an Arraez single and a single from Wade which loaded the bases with one out.
That left utility guy Ronald Torreyes — he of five big-league plate appearances this season — with a chance to send the fans home happy, or to send Brusdar Graterol to the mound for a 13th inning.
Fortunately, he chose the former. Well, the former chose him, as Ruiz hit the diminutive Torreyes with the third pitch he threw him — a 95 mph fastball that forced home the game-winning run. The celebration had to be halted ever so briefly for replay to confirm Torreyes had been hit, but once the Twins got the go-ahead, Sano hoisted up Torreyes and the team flooded the area around first base with all of the different food and drink items found in a typical MLB dugout.
“That was crazy,” Gonzalez said. “We weren’t expecting that, to score on a hit-by-pitch, but we’ll take it. Torreyes wasn’t on the plate. That was pressure for the pitcher, but all that matters was that we got a W today.”
“It’s a big moment for him too,” Baldelli said of Torreyes, who had a tough year personally and professionally with Triple-A Rochester. “(It was) kind of an unusual play, a crazy way to end the game. The one thing you feel good about is he’s probably going to find a way to put the ball in play. You want to get him up and give him a chance to do that. He gets hit. Who knew? We’ll take it.”
Despite Cleveland beating Detroit 7-2 earlier in the evening, the Twins took another step foward — and slashed their magic number to seven.
“There is no quit in this group,” Baldelli said. “What a group. There’s not a lot of words for that. You had to experience that game and feel it and go through it and feels the ups and downs. It would have been easy to just end the game, go up and take three bigs swings or whatever, a few outs and it would have been over because it was a long and not an easy game.
“That’s not what our group is about and that’s not what they do. They went out and had some really impressive at-bats over and over again and put ourselves in a spot to give ourselves a chance to actually win that game and we did.
“We found a way.”
Notes & Quotes
- The Twins improved to 5-7 in extra-inning games with the win.
- This was the first time the Twins won on a walk-off hit-by-pitch since Aug. 31, 2017 — also against the White Sox — when Max Kepler was hit.
- It’s the third time in Twins history that a game ended on a hit-by-pitch. On May 1, 1996, Paul Molitor was hit by Royals reliever Jeff Montgomery in the bottom of the 10th at the Metrodome.
- Tyler Duffey threw a scoreless inning, running his active streak to 19.2 clean frames in a row — the longest active streak in baseball.
- Perez on when he sensed this team was special: “When we started in spring training, man. When I walked the first time through the clubhouse, I saw everybody. It’s a young team, and we’re hungry to play, hungry to win. We play like a little kid. We get paid to play baseball. I mean, why not enjoy it? We just come here and like I say, we have to just do our best. Do a great job to the end of the night and win the game. We’re a special group, we just have to stay focused and humble. This is baseball. We’ve just got to go out there and play hard every night — 100 percent. I can see from the dugout when the guys cross the lines (on the field), they’re a different person, a different player. We just have to keep that and go out there and enjoy what we’re doing, and keep winning.”
- Gonzalez on when he sensed this team was special: “When I saw the roster when I got offered by this team, I saw the talent and a lot of young guys. There’s talent plus energy, which does a lot. That’s a big part of the game. When your guys have talent and they’re hungry to play, they give everything on the field. That’s what makes a team special.”
- Gonzalez on what prompted Baldelli and the trainer to come out and check on him during an at-bat: “I think I felt (the previous injury) a little bit. I didn’t want to come out of the game, though. I felt good the rest of the game, so I guess it was nothing. It had been suggested that I’ve been kind of scared, coming off an injury like that, but thank god it didn’t bother me the rest of the game.”
- Wade on entering a game and playing a pivotal role late: “Just always be ready. The guys who are on the bench always know there’s always a time when we can be in the game, so you’ve just got to stay focused and pay attention to the game, thinking the game the whole time we’re playing. This is our job, so once you’re called upon, you have to do a job, and you have to go out there and do the best that you can.”
- Baldelli on Cron’s condition which allowed him to pinch-hit: “So C.J. actually was feeling a little bit better today. We tried a little something new to try to help him out. I’ll let him talk about it if he wants to but you know he seemed excited. He seemed ready to go out there and swing the bat. Truthfully with the pain, with everything that’s been going on with him that he’s been dealing with, I mean I would never — I can’t say he was excited to swing the bat previously but he seemed ready to go. He actually seemed confident and the swings looked different. The swings looked good. He looked like he was just a hair from really driving the ball and looked a lot better so we’ll definitely take that, yeah.”
- Baldelli on third-base coach Tony Diaz’s decision not to send Gonzalez home with the potential winning run on Wade’s single in the 12th: “I just want to note, Tony Diaz’s no send late in the game honestly could have been one of the biggest moments of the game for is. That’s an extraordinarily challenging job that he does every day and there would have been a lot of — if you play that over a lot of times throughout the league, that player gets sent a lot of the time and he — I almost said something I probably shouldn’t say but it’s a really challenging decision right there and I think he certainly made the right decision. We’re all sitting there going ‘Wow,’ That’s not easy to hold that guy right there and he did and he put us in a position to win the game.”