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Athletics 13, Twins 12: Worst roller coaster ever

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This one hurt, hurt

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics
Ryan Jeffers ended up being okay after this play, but at the end of the day, the Twins were not.
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Today, I tried to do the thing where you start writing the game recap before the game is actually over. Tried more than once, twice, even thrice, in fact.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

I was prepared to tell you all about how Kenta Maeda was not the stopper the Twins needed him to be in this one. I still will, because, well, he wasn’t.

Then, it was going to be all about the Twins’ comeback, subsequent collapse, the defense and pitching that helped them cling to a one-run lead. Alex Colomé did his thing (not the good thing), however, and then it was time to be super sad about dropping a roller-coaster game.

And then, Buxton happened, and the Twins were within an out of winning. And then ... well, the bad things all happened. But let’s start at the beginning.

Kenta Maeda entered this game without a dominant performance to this point in the season. Glancing at his 3.07 ERA and the 16 strikeouts and five walks in 14 23 innings, it would be easy to assume that he was following up his Cy Young runner-up performance in 2020 with another ace-like campaign.

Unfortunately, some of the command issues that dotted his first three starts popped up once again, and the Oakland Athletics teed off on Twins pitching for the third game in two days.

After the Twins took a 1-0 lead on a Josh Donaldson solo home run in the first inning, Matt Olson clobbered a solo home run in the bottom of the second, followed by three consecutive singles and a wild pitch that gave the A’s a 3-1 lead.

But the Twins suggested that they were interested in breaking out of their long losing skid, answering back with a pair of runs of their own. Luis Arraez knocked a ground-rule double over the head of Ramon Laureano, and after a Josh Donaldson RBI single, Nelson Cruz yanked a laser into the left-field seats to give the Twins a 4-3 lead.

The A’s, however, answered back themselves with a pair of two-run homers in the bottom of the third. First, it was another bomb from Olson. Then, three batters later, a two-run homer from Seth Brown stretched Oakland’s lead to 7-4.

In the top of the fifth, however, Cruz took off the wrap he had put on his leg after his last bomb obliterated another pitch, getting the Twins to within 7-5. Seriously, it looked like he swung while transferring an inordinate amount of his weight to his front foot and only using his arms to deposit the ball beyond the centerfield wall.

Then, singles by Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco and aggressive baserunning gave the Twins runners on second and third with no outs. A wild pitch plated Buxton, and with the infield in, second baseman Jed Lowrie couldn’t handle a Jake Cave smash and the Twins tied the game.

Randy Dobnak set Oakland down in order in the bottom of the frame, and Arraez started another rally in the top of the sixth. Donaldson stroked a single to left and Arraez aggressively advanced to third, scoring on a Cruz groundout. With Donaldson running on the pitch, the Twins avoided the double play and maintained a runner on second base with only one out. After a well-hit out to center by Buxton, Jorge Polanco continued his breakout game with a single. He stole second and was driven in on a Willians Astudillo single.

If you’re scoring at home — which you don’t have to do, because that’s why I’m here — it was a 10-7 affair at this point. Oakland answered back with two runs off of Hansel Robles, because of course, and in the midst of the action included a one-hopper to Donaldson by Mark Canha that literally stuck in the webbing of his glove and resulted in the A’s having runners on the corners with only one out.

After a stolen base and a strikeout, Robles was replaced by Taylor Rogers. Rogers proceeded to give up a two-run double to Lowrie, and it was back to a 10-9 game. The inning did, however, end with an insane diving catch by Buxton in the gap in left-center. He’s really good.

Rogers, however, was fantastic over the next two innings, getting a double-play and facing the minimum in the seventh inning and striking out the side in the eighth. On offense, the Twins scattered five baserunners over the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings but couldn’t add any insurance runs.

Colomé started the ninth by running the count full to Laureano before hitting him with a pitch. After a Lowrie line-out, Olson singled to give the A’s runners on the corners. Matt Chapman knocked a sacrifice fly to left field to tie the game, and Olson was picked off first base to send the game to extra innings.

Travis Blankenhorn pinch-ran for Josh Donaldson at second base as the bonus runner (does that term work?) — which was nearly entirely inconsequential, but ... it ultimately cost the Twins the game.

Mitch Garver struck out for the hobbled Cruz, bringing up Buxton. The superstar centerfielder mashed a high fastball into the seats above left-center field, giving the Twins a 12-10 lead. Polanco followed that up with a warning-track blast to centerfield that Laureano barely hauled in, and Astudillo popped out to end the inning.

Out came Colomé for his second inning of high-leverage work, and he got the first two outs on a fly-out and a strikeout. Then, a pair of walks loaded the bases. Blankenhorn, who was now in at second base, moving Arraez from second to third, bobbled an easy groundball that should have ended the game, and the A’s had new life, pulling to within 12-11.

Colomé had a long battle with Laureano and induced a bouncer to Arraez, now playing third base. With plenty of time, Arraez uncorked one of the wildest throws you’ll ever see, sailing well to the left and over the head of Astudillo at first, and the game was over.

Notes

  • Maeda was working on six days rest. That isn’t likely to happen again, and he’s a good pitcher. Therefore, he’ll be alright.
  • Great work by Tyler Duffey, Dobnak, and Rogers out of the bullpen to bridge the gap in a weird game.
  • Weird things happen in Oakland. They just do. Remember this one?
  • Versatility is great, and it’s important. But a left-to-right infield of Arraez, Polanco, Blankenhorn, and Astudillo is not how you want to finish a tight game in extra innings.
  • Did you catch that? Blankenhorn, who was just fresh into the game at second, made the first error. Then Arraez, who had played nine innings at second base and had just slid over to third, made the final and most costly error.
  • Not really sure what else to say about this debacle. Maeda was disappointing, Buxton is amazing, Cruz is fantastic even when (hopefully not too seriously) banged up, and Polanco may be rounding back into form. But man, this one hurts.

Studs

  • Josh Donaldson: 4-for-6, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R,
  • Nelson Cruz: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R
  • Byron Buxton: 3-for-6, go-ahead HR in 10th, 2 RBI, 2 R, incredible catch
  • Jorge Polanco: 4-for-6, RBI, 2 R, SB
  • Taylor Rogers: 2 13 IP, 3 K, 2 H (allowed inherited runners to score but was great otherwise)

Duds

  • Kenta Maeda: 3 IP, 7 ER, 8 H, 1 K, 3 HR allowed
  • Alex Colomé: 1 23 IP, 4 R (only 1 ER) 2 BB, H, K (certainly not all his fault, but still)
  • Travis Blankenhorn: E-4
  • Luis Arraez: E-5

Roll Call