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All-Time Twins Tournament, Puckett Round, Day 7: Nobody wants to lose

The second and final spot in the Joe Mauer round is decided here.

Harmon Kilebrew Greeting Tony Oliva
One team’s journey ends on this (virtual) field.

“Everyone wants to go home, but nobody wants to lose!” -Gavin Free, two hours into a game of UNO

In this case, both teams wanted a smooth advancement into the Joe Mauer Round, a rest for their exhausted bullpens, but neither wanted to lose. They proved it.

St. Paul Sectional (played)

(7) 2019 Twins 5
(3) 1969 Twins 6
1969 wins series 4-3

Resilience.

Resilience permeated the St. Paul Sectional. ‘19 came back in Games 3 and 5 for a pair of walk-off victories, turning a 3-1 series deficit into a winner-take-all tie. ‘69 briefly tied Game 5 and did not crumble under the weight of a nine-run deficit in Game 6, though it too ended in a loss.

Both teams in this series demonstrated resilence throughout, and each refused to give up despite falling behind multiple times in Game 7.

But in the end, only one team could advance, and after a series of lead changes and ties, ‘69 moved on to the Joe Mauer round, ousting ‘19 by a 6-5 margin.

Though neither team’s offense produced any high-scoring innings, starters Jake Odorizzi and Jim Kaat both were scathed by the opposition’s lineup, neither of which left a deficit untouched for long.

‘69 opened the scoring in the first, loading the bases with one out and watching Tony Oliva cross the plate on a passed ball. But after Odorizzi plunked César Tovar to put three men on once again, Bob Allison struck out and John Roseboro flew to center to escape what might have been a disastrous inning.

Although Kaat navigated the second inning untroubled, ‘19 pulled ahead with two outs in the third. Facing a 2-2 count, Jorge Polanco cracked a triple to the wall in right-center; he did not have to linger on third for long as Nelson Cruz blasted a two-run shot to take a 2-1 lead. But a one-run deficit has never been seen as a challenge in this series, and ‘69 tied the game in the bottom of the third when Rich Reese lined a triple into the right field corner and Allison singled him home.

‘19 continued their propensity for two-out rallies by doubling their score in the fifth. One strike away from getting out of the inning, Kaat hit Mitch Garver with a pitch. Polanco worked another full count before singling, and Cruz brought both runners home with a two-strike double. Though Eddie Rosario grounded out, ‘19 now sported a 4-2 lead.

That lead would be quickly halved, however, as Oliva doubled, moved to third on Reese’s single, and scored on Tovar’s sacrifice fly.

Both starters exited the game after five, and with both bullpens tired, batters looked to bring runners home. While Al Worthington navigated a clean sixth, Ryne Harper watched the lead slip away on an unearned run. John Roseboro led off the inning with a single and Ted Uhlander entered as a pinch runner. On Harper’s first pitch to Graig Nettles, Uhlander took off for second; Garver’s throw sailed into the outfield, and Uhlander took third. While Nettles could not reach base himself, his grounder to second was enough to bring Uhlander home with the tying run.

One inning later, ‘69 took back the lead for the first time since the third. After Sergio Romo took 14 pitches to retire two batters, Trevor May relieved him, only for Rich Reese to send his first pitch over the right field fence.

But ‘19 responded in the eighth off Dean Chance, pitching in relief in an all-or-nothing game. After Rosario opened the inning with a double, Chance retired the next two men. However, C.J. Cron continued his strong series by putting his bat on a 1-0 pitch and driving the ball into the outfield for a single, Rosario beating Oliva’s throw home to tie the score once again.

With the pitching staff fatigued, ‘69 had no desire to let the game run into extra innings, and took the lead once more. George Mitterwald, now catching with Roseboro out of the game, opened the eighth with a single. After Nettles flew out, Leo Cárdenas lined a double that sent Mitterwald to third. That brought Oliva up to face Tyler Duffey, and the ‘69 right fielder sent a line drive to Max Kepler in right; Mitterwald tagged up and beat Kepler’s throw to the plate, bringing the score to 6-5.

Needeing to protect their one-run lead, ‘69 turned to closer Ron Perranoski, who had twice been walked off by ‘19 in the series. When Byron Buxton worked a leadoff walk and Polanco singled him to second with one out, the game appeared to be repeating itself, especially with the dangerous Cruz at the plate. But with a full count, Cruz rapped a sharp ground ball to Nettles, who threw to Carew to force Polanco; Carew’s relay to Reese beat Cruz to the bag, sending ‘69 — at last — to the championship round.

Stars of the Game
‘19 — SS Jorge Polanco: 4-5, 3B, 2B, 2 R
‘19 — DH Nelson Cruz: 2-5, HR, 2B, R, 4 RBI
‘19 — 1B C.J. Cron: 3-4, RBI
‘69 — 1B Rich Reese: 4-4, HR, 3B, 2 R, RBI
‘69 — RP Al Worthington: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
‘69 — RF Tony Oliva: 1-3, 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB
‘69 — SS Leo Cárdenas: 2-4, 2B

Series MVP
Tony Oliva (‘69 RF)
15-32, 3 HR, 5 2B, 10 R, 11 RBI
.469/.486/.906 slash line

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a championship match:

I’ll post a full preview of the championship round tomorrow.

This tournament has been full of surprises. We’ll see if the Mauer Round brings one more.

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