It was a Saturday night baseball game representative of a late-season pennant chase. Two division rivals, pitting their bullpens against each other, and running out of bullets to fire as familiarity and fatigue continue to set in.
Both teams traded blows with a pair of first-inning runs. Eddie Rosario crept closer to 30 dingers with another early two-run shot. Then, in a rather bizarre home half, Minnesota opener Lewis Thorpe walked a guy, allowed a double, an RBI single, back-to-back walks (the latter scoring the tying run), then struck out the next three hitters.
Thorpe had difficulty finding the strike zone at all tonight, ultimately walking four, chucking a wild pitch, and barely managing a 50% strike rate. But he was still able to outlast Cleveland’s starting option, Tyler Clippard. Clippard threw two frames, while Thorpe was asked to pitch into the fourth (and likely would have gone longer if the game was under control.)
At the time, though, it wasn’t. A third-inning Jordan Luplow homer foreshadowed more trouble in the fourth, when three straight two-out hits (including another two-run homer, this one off the bat of Oscar Mercado) hastened Thorpe’s exit in favor of Cody Stashak.
The 5-2 Cleveland lead wasn’t threatened again until the sixth. Nelson Cruz’s 37th homer of the year scored himself and Jorge Polanco, bringing the Twins to within one.
With time running out in the eighth inning, Jonathan Schoop singled to lead things off against Adam Cimber, who was then immediately pulled for Oliver Perez. After Kepler replaced Schoop on the basepaths via fielder’s choice, Polanco doubled him home to tie the game.
An intentional walk to Nelson Cruz and an unintentional pass to Eddie Rosario set up a bases-loaded opportunity for Miguel Sano. The Twins, as it’s been noted, have been uncharacteristically quiet with all the ducks on the pond this season, with only one grand slam (Byron Buxton’s) to their credit.
On the first pitch, Miguel Sano rocked a game-breaking grand slam into left-center, opening Minnesota’s lead to 9-5. Cue the fireworks, the crazy cheers, and the sighs of relief.
The lead would hold through a comparatively quiet inning-and-a-half, locking up Minnesota’s 91st win of the 2019 season.
There is still plenty of baseball left to be played, but there’s every possibility that we look back on the Sano homer as the hit that ended Cleveland’s shot at the division. The lead has been pushed to 5.5 games, and an improbable pair of victories led by sensationally outstanding bullpen performances should give both players and fans alike the confidence that this squad can make some noise in October.
Heck, we still might be looking at a 100-win team.
The Bullpen, AGAIN (5.1 IP, 1 H, 6 K)
SS Jorge Polanco (3-for-5, 3 R, RBI, 2B)
DH Nelson Cruz (1-for-3, 2 R, 2 RBI, HR)
3B Miguel Sano (1-for-4, R, 4 RBI, HR)
NO DUDS! TWINS WIN! TWINS WIN!
ROBOT ROLL CALL:
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