Entering this weekend, the Twins had 13 walk-off losses. They needed three walk-off losses in their final three road games to tie the all-time record. Impossible, right?
Well, two down, one to go.
After an intense bases-loaded battle in the ninth, Trevor Hildenberger threw a wild pitch to bring home the winning run, and the Oakland Athletics handed Minnesota their 15th such soul-deflating loss of the 2018 season.
The final score would not suggest that Chase De Jong had a poor outing — and for what it’s worth, it certainly wasn’t terrible. Dick Bremer suggested De Jong would factor as a “piggyback” starter, something akin to an extended opener, earning maybe one trip through the lineup before giving way to the expanded relief corps.
Ultimately, De Jong had another four-inning outing, but his removal was less to do with underperformance, and more to do with Paul Molitor wanting to keep the game from getting away.
After Joe Mauer spotted the Twins a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly in the third, De Jong gave up a single, two-run homer, and double in the fifth inning. At only 58 pitches, De Jong could have been given the opportunity to get things back on track, but Andrew Vasquez and Oliver Drake were instead relied upon to right the ship. (A train metaphor AND a boat metaphor for you. How about that?)
The Twins would wind up using seven total pitchers in the game, with all but De Jong and Zack Littell (2 innings) serving up fewer than an even frame.
Meanwhile, Mike Fiers held Minnesota to four hits and a run over six innings, striking out five during that time. As soon as he left the game, the Twins pounced. Ehire Adrianza doubled in the seventh, and Willians Astudillo singled him home to knot the game at two runs apiece.
The Twins had an opportunity to move ahead in the next inning, with Jorge Polanco taking a leadoff walk, but he was subsequently picked off in a rundown, stifling a rally. The A’s would squander a threat of their own in the bottom half, beginning with back-to-back singles, then grounding into three outs administered by a 5-4-3 from Tyler Duffey and a 6-3 from Taylor Rogers.
After a relatively painless top of the ninth, Hildenberger entered in the hopes of sending a second straight ballgame to the tenth inning. It didn’t go great. Stephen Piscotty led off with a double, and after striking out the next batter, Jorge Polanco committed a combination fielding/throwing error on a grounder to put men on the corners.
An intentional walk to pinch-hitter Matt Joyce filled the bags with one gone, and brought up Mark Canha. After two quick strikes, Canha fouled off three pitches, took a ball, fouled off three more pitches, took another ball, and then finally went down swinging on the 11th pitch of the at-bat. A victorious Hildenberger took a lap around the mound, then bore down for his final opponent, Matt Chapman.
Hildy threw the first pitch about 20 feet outside, to the cavernous backstop of the Coliseum, and Piscotty ran home to seal the deal for the A’s.
It’s a big win for Oakland, who keep pace with the New York Yankees (who, coincidentally, also won on a 3-2 walkoff and handed Baltimore their staggering 110th loss.)
And it’s a near-historic defeat for the Twins, who have already set the major-league record with 10 walk-off homers allowed this year. Tune in tomorrow to see if our guys can lose on the last play for the 16th time!
C Willians Astudillo (3-for-4, R, RBI)
SS Jorge Polanco (0-for-3, K, error)
CF Jake Cave (0-for-4, 2 K)
RP Trevor Hildenberger (0.2 IP, H, R, BB, 2 K, WP)
Robot Roll Call:
Comment of the Gamethread:
Lots to like here despite a quiet evening on the forum, but I’ll have to go with OtherPTBNL’s astute observation that “Other Graterol” is probably the worst Twinkie Town nickname to have. Sorry, Juan, but Brusdar’s got you beat.