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All-Time Twins Tournament, Puckett Round, Day 3: From Bomba Squad to piranha ball

And what’s with all the shutouts?

Atlanta Braves v Minnesota Twins
At last, a round-long slump is put beyond.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The title comes from a highlight from MLB: The Show streamer Austin “thuuuuney” Thune, who incidentally got married yesterday. Congratulations on the nuptials, Austin!

Minneapolis Sectional (played)

(13) 2003 Twins 6
(16) 2017 Twins 0
‘03 leads 2-1

With one round to go until the championship series, starting pitchers are putting in top-tier performances.

This trend continued as Kenny Rogers struck out nine over seven scoreless innings, leading ‘03 to a 2-1 advantage with a 6-0 victory, the third shutout in three games this series.

‘17 had no answer for Rogers or Grant Balfour, who pitched two perfect relief innings and struck out three. Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario, batting second and fourth in the lineup, each went 0-4 with three strikeouts.

While Kyle Gibson limited ‘03 to three hits, he also walked four, and the hits he allowed proved more costly. Despite working around a first-inning Torii Hunter single, Gibson opened the second by walking Matt LeCroy before Michael Cuddyer blasted a 2-2 pitch 460 feet to left-center.

More hits and walks proved to haunt Gibson, extending ‘03’s lead after his departure with one out in the sixth. Doug Mientkiewicz opened the inning with a double, and after Michael Ryan grounded out, Hunter and Jacque Jones walked to load the bases. Ryan Pressly entered in relief, only for LeCroy to double on a 2-0 pitch, his fly ball landing just over the head of Byron Buxton, bringing home two runs.

By this time, ‘17’s opportunity for runs proved to have come and gone. Although Buxton and Brian Dozier hit consecutive two-out singles in the third, Miguel Sano led off the fourth with a double, and Ehire Adrianza opened the fifth with a single and steal of second, they were never able to push any of these runners across. Those four were ‘17’s only hits and baserunners of the game,

‘03 put their third and final two-spot on the board in the ninth inning; with two outs, Shannon Stewart doubled home Cristian Guzman and, after Buddy Boshers relieved Alan Busenitz, Mientkiewicz doubled home Stewart. Balfour set down ‘17 on 10 pitches in the bottom of the ninth, giving ‘03’s bullpen a rest after ‘17’s received the same breather one game before.

Stars of the Game
‘03 — SP Kenny Rogers: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K
‘03 — RP Grant Balfour: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
‘03 — 1B Doug Mientkiewicz: 2-5, 2 2B, R, RBI
‘03 — 3B Michael Cuddyer: 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB
‘17 — RP Taylor Rogers: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K

St. Paul Sectional

(3) 1969 Twins 8
(7) 2019 Twins 9
‘69 leads 2-1

For five innings, ‘69 was cruising to a 3-0 series lead, having taken a 7-0 lead and knocked Jake Odorizzi out of the box in the third inning.

But the Bomba Squad came to life... and channeled the ‘06 Piranhas.

C.J. Cron blasted two home runs to close the gap before a string of ninth-inning singles stole the game, Mitch Garver driving in Cron to complete the 9-8 comeback.

Cron, who had four hits in the tournament before today, matched that total, his four hits in five at-bats driving in five runs while scoring three of his own.

But before Cron’s explosion, ‘19’s offense kept quiet while ‘69 built a seven-run lead. ‘69 opened the scoring in the second, Rich Reese and César Tovar hitting back-to-back doubles before Tovar moved around the bases on a wild pitch and passed ball. ‘69 one-upped themselves the next inning by scoring three runs with two outs, Leo Cárdenas’ two-run double triggering the hook for Odorizzi. Although Trevor May safely closed the inning, his first two batters faced in the fourth inning were John Roseboro, who walked (batting line: 0-2, 3 BB, 2 R), and Rod Carew, who smacked a two-run home run.

Meanwhile, Jim Kaat had kept ‘19 from reaching the scoreboard, allowing only five hits in the first five innings. But ‘19’s bats woke up in the sixth, adding 15 hits over the rest of the game for a total of 20.

The hit column does not determine victory, though; copious hits must produce copious runs. Cron ensured that began with two outs in the sixth, following Max Kepler’s single by crushing the ball 448 feet to get ‘19 on the scoreboard.

After Luis Arraez succeeded Cron by singling, Tom Hall entered in relief, ending the frame and swiftly working through the seventh inning. ‘69 added stuffing to their cushion by tallying a run in the top of the eighth of Martin Perez on a walk and two singles.

Hall, however, would not last through the eighth. allowing a single and a full-count walk before recording an out. That brought up Cron, who launched a fly ball deep over the fence, its landing point seven feet shy of his first long ball. Bob Miller entered in relief and the Bomba Squad previewed Piranha Mode, tallying a run on three singles before Miller recorded the third out.

As the scoreboard read 8-6 entering the bottom of the ninth, ‘69 brought in closer Ron Perranoski, who had recorded a 0.00 ERA over four innings in the first two rounds of the bracket. After Eddie Rosario singled, Perranoski appeared to regain control, striking out Miguel Sanó on three pitches. But after Kepler and Cron singled to load the bases, Arraez lined Perranoski’s 2-2 pitch into the outfield, his single bringing home two runs to tie the game.

With the winning run on second, ‘19 did not give Perranoski any opportunity to recover. Byron Buxton tapped an infield single on the first pitch of his at-bat, while Garver let a strike go by before flaring Perranoski’s 21st pitch into the outfield, bringing home Cron and giving ‘19 the foothold and momentum in the series.

Stars of the Game
‘69 — 2B Rod Carew: 3-5, HR, 2B, R, 2 RBI
‘69 — SS Leo Cárdenas: 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI
‘69 — CF César Tovar: 2-5, 2B, 2 R
‘19 — 1B C.J. Cron: 4-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI, GW run
‘19 — C Mitch Garver: 4-6, 2B, walk-off RBI single
‘19 — 2B Luis Arraez: 3-4, R, 2 RBI, BB

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