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All-Time Twins Tournament, Puckett Round, Day 6: The precursor to “bomba”

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And will there be a Game 7?

Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins
Bomba buddies... er, pre bomba buddies... in the final.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

As we baseball, we continue to baseball.

Minneapolis Sectional

(16) 2017 Twins 6
(13) 2003 Twins 3
2017 wins series 4-2

The underdogs, the wild cards, the afterthoughts... the finalists.

Led by Brian Dozier’s powerful swing, ‘17 hit three home runs off ‘03 pitching, making a statement on their way into the Joe Mauer round with a 6-3 victory.

Both Jose Berrios and Brad Radke allowed precisely four hits over five innings of work (five-plus for Berríos), but two of those off Radke were Dozier solo homers, including one on the first pitch of the game. Berríos allowed a pair of extra-base hits, a double by Doug Mientkiewicz in the third and a sixth-inning triple by A.J. Pierzynski, but ‘03 was not able to convert either to runs.

‘03’s best opportunities came in Berríos’ final inning-plus of work. With ‘17 up 2-0 in the fifth, Berríos plunked Michael Ryan, allowed a single to Shannon Stewart, and walked Corey Koskie. But he interlaced a Luis Rivas strikeout and a Doug Mientkiewicz fly ball within those baserunners, and escaped the inning when Torii Hunter skied one to Byron Buxton in center.

Berríos stayed in the game to start the sixth, but was quickly removed after Pierzynski’s triple and a Jacque Jones walk. Ryan Pressly entered with two on and none out, but kept the game scoreless, sandwiching a shallow fly ball between two strikeouts.

Having the lead nearly taken away in two straight innings, ‘17 elected to widen the gap in the top of the seventh. With two outs and Jason Castro on first, Grant Balfour worked around Dozier’s hot lumber, walking him to face Joe Mauer. But Mauer lined a 2-1 pitch for a single that brought home Castro, and Miguel Sano followed suit, singling in Dozier.

Deciding two runs were not enough, Eduardo Escobar and Max Kepler greeted Rick Reed in the eighth with, respectively, a single and a 418-foot blast. Thanks to their attack on the ‘03 bullpen, every hitter in the ‘17 lineup tallied a hit.

In the ninth, ‘03 managed to halve the gap. Rivas singled with one out and, after Adalberto Mejia trotted in from the bullpen, Stewart topped a single and Mientkiewicz brought everybody around the bases, lining a 422-foot three-run homer. But Mejía settled in, battling Koskie to a full count before striking him out. After watching Hunter foul off three pitches in a row, Mejía slipped one last pitch through the strike zone, sending 16th-seeded ‘17 into the championship.

Stars of the Game
‘17 — 2B Brian Dozier: 2-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB
‘17 — SP José Berríos: 5.0+ IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K
‘17 — 1B Joe Mauer: 2-5, RBI
‘17 — DH Miguel Sanó: 2-5, RBI
‘03 — 1B Doug Mientkiewicz: 2-5, HR, 2B, R, 3 RBI
‘03 — C A.J. Pierzynski: 2-3, 3B, HBP
‘03 — DH Shannon Stewart: 2-4, R, BB

Series MVP
Brian Dozier (‘17 2B)
13-25, 3 HR, 3B, 5 2B, 7 R, 8 RBI
.520/.556/1.160 slash line, 1.716 OPS!!!

St. Paul Sectional (played)

(7) 2019 Twins 10
(3) 1969 Twins 7
Series tied 3-3

As both these clubs have shown in the Puckett Round, no lead is safe. A nine-run lead nearly proved it.

‘19 hammered Dave Boswell, pulling ahead 10-1 in the fifth; though ‘69 battled back, ‘19 escaped with a 10-7 win to force a winner-take-all Game 7.

After ‘69 took a quick lead in the second, John Roseboro scoring on a wild pitch, ‘19 starter Michael Pineda took command of the mound, keeping the opponents quiet so his teammates could build a dominant lead uninterrupted.

Their offensive began in the third inning, after Boswell walked Luis Arraez and Max Kepler, with a Byron Buxton flyout stuck between them. Jorge Polanco stepped to the plate and blasted a three-run bomba to flip the scoreboard, and Nelson Cruz went back-to-back two pitches later.

Boswell made it through the fourth, but the fifth inning saw ‘19’s lead grow to its apex as the Bomba Squad sent 12 men to the plate. Buxton opened the frame with a double, Kepler moved him over with a single, and Polanco smacked a double of his own to bring in Buxton. Boswell intentionally walked Cruz, thereby placing a man on every base; that status remained for the half-inning, though the identity of the men changed frequently. After Mitch Garver struck out (one of four whiffs on the day for the ‘19 catcher), five consecutive batters hit RBI singles, reliever Dick Woodson surrendering the final four. After Woodson struck out Kepler and got Polanco to loft an inning-ending fly ball, ‘19 had double-digit tallies to ‘69’s sole scratch.

But like their opponents in Games 3 and 5, ‘69 hit the ball hard in the later innings. Tony Oliva led off the sixth with a home run just inside the right field foul pole, and Harmon Killebrew and Rich Reese followed him with singles. Pineda struck out César Tovar and got Roseboro to fly out, but Bob Allison walloped a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall, the three-run jack cutting ‘19’s lead to five.

With Zack Littell on the mound, ‘69 kept hitting through the seventh. After two singles and a groundout put men in scoring position, Littell intentionally walked Killebrew to set up an inning-ending double play. He was able to get a ground ball off the bat of Rich Reese, but it went through the infield, scoring Leo Cárdenas. Rod Carew touched the plate when Tovar grounded into a fielder’s choice, bringing the tying run up in Roseboro. But the ‘69 catcher bounced into a fielder’s choice of his own, stymieing the threat.

Needing three runs to extend the game, ‘69 made one final push in the ninth. With one out, Oliva singled and Killebrew walked, setting Reese up as the tying run. Trevor May relieved Sergio Romo and got Reese to fly out, but Tovar singled to load the bases, this time bringing Roseboro to the plate representing the winning run. Taylor Rogers came out of the pen to create a lefty-lety matchup, and the book smiled on ‘19: Roseboro bounced out to Arraez, preventing this series from concluding just yet.

Stars of the Game
‘19 — SS Jorge Polanco: 2-5, HR, 2B, 2 R, 4 RBI
‘19 — CF Byron Buxton: 2-4, 2B, R, RBI
‘19 — DH Miguel Sanó: 2-5, 2B, R, RBI
‘69 — LF Bob Allison: 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI
‘69 — RP Tom Hall: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
‘69 — 1B Rich Reese: 3-5, R, RBI

One finalist down, one to go:

Introduction
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
Review