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Twins 7, Tigers 6: Cave, Maeda build lead, bullpen gives most of it back

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That was closer than it should have been — but the Twins are in first place!

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins
Kenta Maeda was very good once again.
Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

There are only four days left in the regular season, and the Minnesota Twins are finally back in first place.

It’s only by a half-game, and if the White Sox win on Thursday while the Twins are idle then the two teams will be a tie. Which actually means that Chicago is in first, since they hold the tiebreaker.

On Wednesday night at Target Field, Kenta Maeda was every bit as good as he was on the night of his near-no-hitter more than a month ago. He allowed a first-inning infield hit, and the only other baserunner prior to the sixth inning reached on an error.

The error was actually a scary moment in the bottom of the second when Eric Haase ran into Miguel Sano’s arm and knocked his glove off his hand. Sano screamed in pain and at first the injury appeared to be serious, but after a few moments and a visit from the trainer, he was able to stay in the game.

Maeda’s slider was virtually unhittable, and he kept Tigers hitters off-balance for the entirety of the first five innings, hardly allowing any solid contact.

On the other side, Casey Mize didn’t allow a baserunner in the first two innings but gave up plenty of hard contact, including a warning track fly ball from Josh Donaldson and a pair of back-to-back liners to the left side of the infield in the second inning.

The Twins broke through in the third inning with a single and stolen base from Jorge Polanco. Then, an RBI single from Marwin Gonzalez and a hit from Ryan Jeffers to put runners on the corners with no outs. Byron Buxton grounded into a force out and the Twins took a 2-0 lead into the fourth.

Minnesota scored two runs in each of the next two innings on two-run homers from Jake Cave and Eddie Rosario. Cave obliterated a 3-2 fastball over the seats in right field and onto the plaza, and Rosario took a pitch the other way into the bullpen in left-center field.

But Maeda gave up a three-run home run to Miguel Cabrera in the sixth before escaping with his eighth and ninth strikeouts of the game. Cave launched a solo homer to left field in the bottom of the frame, extending the Twins’ to 7-3.

Matt Wisler allowed the Tigers to load the bases with only one out in the top of the seventh, but Tyler Clippard came in and got a strikeout and a pop-up to get out of the jam. Jorge Alcala got himself into and out of trouble in the eighth, keeping the Tigers from scoring.

As it turned out, however, the Twins needed every last homer that they hit in this one, including the solo job from Cave in the sixth. Caleb Thielbar gave up a one-out single and a two-out double in the top of the ninth. Rocco Baldelli chose to bring in Sergio Romo to face Cabrera, and Romo gave up a three-run jack. On the very next pitch, Jeimer Candelario grounded out to Miguel Sano to end the game.

So, while the Twins had to hang onto a 7-6 lead, think of it this way: if Miguel Cabrera had sat this one out, the Twins would have won by a score of 7-0.

Notes

  • Maeda was fantastic. He will indeed be the Game One starter next Tuesday night, likely at Target Field, and versus an opponent-to-be-named-later. He has not given up more than three earned runs in any of his starts this year and has thrown six or more innings in eight of his 11 starts.
  • The Twins are finally back on a home-run streak. They entered the day tied for fifth in the league in home runs and hit another three in this one. At the same time, their first two runs came from three singles, a stolen base and a force out as they continue to show that the offense is multi-faceted and versatile.
  • Jorge Polanco played after having yesterday off and went 1-for-4, making a couple of nice defensive plays.
  • In addition to Cave’s two home runs, he also made a diving catch in left field behind Maeda and almost snagged one in the netting down the left-field line. It was a fantastic all-around showing from Cave, and he’s absolutely earned the opportunity to find some playing time in the postseason.

Studs

  • Kenta Maeda: 6 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 9 K
  • Jake Cave: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, great defense
  • Ryan Jeffers: 2-for-3,
  • Tyler Clippard: 23 IP, K, pitched out of bases-loaded jam

Duds

  • Caleb Thielbar: 23 IP, 2 ER, 2 H
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