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All-Time Twins Tournament, Killebrew Round, Day 4: Late-inning magic

In which some relievers stand strong and others falter.

Pierzynski and Guardado celebrate
A sight long since forgotten: the Twins winning a playoff game. (This simulated bracket doesn’t count.)
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Two series to go this round:

Tawny Regional

(12) 2006 Twins 1
(13) 2003 Twins 2
-10 innings-
2003 wins series 3-1

For the second straight game, Eddie Guardado and Joe Nathan were called upon to pitch a second, extra inning of relief. And for the second straight game, ‘03 walked off Nathan.

Doug Mientkiewicz’s RBI single brought in Luis Rivas for the game- and series-winning run as ‘03 eliminated ‘06 in four games with a 2-1 victory.

Both Boof Bonser and Kyle Lohse surrendered early runs, Joe Mauer bringing in Luis Castillo in the top of the third on a groundout and Michael Ryan singling in A.J. Pierzynski in the bottom of the second. But the starters settled down, Lohse allowing only three hits over five innings and Bonser giving up seven — including the four in the second inning — over seven.

After Guardado worked around Rondell White’s ninth-inning double and Nathan pitched a perfect ninth, both remained in the game for a second relief inning. Jason Bartlett opened the top of the 10th with a triple, but Guardado silenced the heart of the order. He induced shallow groundouts from Mauer and Justin Morneau before striking out Michael Cuddyer to end ‘06’s threat.

The same initial fate befell Nathan, who suffered his fourth and final loss of the tournament, all four coming in extra innings in a multiple-inning relief appearance. Like his counterpart, Nathan surrendered a triple to open the 10th, this time off the bat of Luis Rivas. After Shannon Stewart struck out, Mientkiewicz sent a ground ball through the infield for a single, bringing home Rivas and sending the home ‘03 Metrodome crowd into a frenzy.

Stars of the Game
‘06 — SP Boof Bonser: 7.0 IP, 7 H, R, ER, BB, 4 K
‘06 — SS Jason Bartlett: 2-5, 3B
‘03 — RP Eddie Guardado: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
‘03 — RF Jacque Jones: 3-4, 2 2B

Series MVP
Eddie Guardado (‘03 RP)
2-0, 4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K

Sandwiches Regional (played)

(2) 1933 Senators 3
(7) 2019 Twins 9
Series tied 2-2

For six and a half innings, ‘33 was advancing easily to the Kirby Puckett round. Then the bullpen took over.

‘19 teed off on five ‘33 relievers, a seven-run eighth helping turn a 3-0 deficit into a 9-3 win, forcing a fifth game and depleting the ‘33 pitching staff.

The final three innings wasted a masterpiece from Earl Whitehill, who allowed just one hit, an Eddie Rosario single, and four walks over six innings while striking out eight.

While Whitehill silenced ‘19 bats, ‘33’s offense persistently worked at Kyle Gibson, finally breaking the scoreless tie in the sixth. With two men out, Joe Cronin doubled into the gap, Joe Kuhel singled him home, and left-handed Goose Goslin beat the shift by sending a fly ball over the left field wall.

After the fatigued Whitehill yielded to Ed Chapman to open the seventh, ‘19 took advantage of Whitehill’s absence by narrowing the deficit to one on Marwin Gonzalez’s two-run jack. The eighth would start similarly for ‘33, but ended much worse.

With the top of the order scheduled to hit, Tommy Thomas relieved Chapman, only for Max Kepler to crush a pitch 438 feet for a game-tying bomba. After Jorge Polanco doubled down the left field line and Nelson Cruz grounded out, southpaw Bobby Burke entered to try and relieve fellow lefty Rosario. But Burke would not record an out. Rosario brought in Polanco with a single, giving ‘19 the lead, and the inning snowballed: Miguel Sano doubled, Luis Arraez walked, and González singled in Rosario, ending Burke’s day. Lefty Stewart fared little better, surrendering a two-run single to Mitch Garver before finally recording out number two on Byron Buxton’s fly to right. After Kepler singled to reload the bases, Alex McColl came out of the bullpen, but Polanco brought in the sixth and seventh runs of the inning with his second left-field-line double of the inning. Cruz walked to load the bases before McColl finally ended the inning by striking out Rosario... but not only had the momentum turned, it had sat on ‘33 and opened a picnic blanket.

Martin Perez, who had relieved Gibson to start the eighth, and Zack Littell combined to load the bases and strand them in the ninth, setting up the deciding game.

Stars of the Game
‘33 — SP Earl Whitehill: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K
‘33 — RF Goose Goslin: 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB
‘19 — 1B Marwin González: 2-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI
‘19 — SS Jorge Polanco: 2-5, 2 2B, R, 2 RBI

One day and one game to go in the Killebrew round as the Minneapolis Sectional has taken shape, ensuring a finalist from the bottom quarter of seeding:

I will supply a brief preview of the semifinals with tomorrow’s recap of the final game in the Sandwiches Region.

Walter Johnson Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
Harmon Killebrew Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
Kirby Puckett Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5 / Day 6 / Day 7
Joe Mauer Round: Preview / Game 1 / Game 2 / Game 3 / Game 4 / Game 5 / Game 6 / Game 7