Ever considered pitching mostly shutout innings? The Twins have, and the Twins did so tonight. But after holding the Angels scoreless late into the eighth inning, the L.A. bats went wild and, against all odds (including a ninth-inning Minnesota win probability of 96%) sent this one into extra innings.
What began as another cruise-control shutout for the Twins turned into one of the crazier Manfredball romps of the season. I’ll keep it spoiler-free for now, assuming you didn’t watch the game, and already forgot what the title was.
It was a one-man wrecking crew for the first half of the evening. A first-inning opposite taqueria off the bat of Carlos Correa opened the scoring, and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly came off the same man’s stick once the game had progressed to the fifth.
But you and I both know that one man can not wreck a crew by his lonesome. Correa’s offensive contributions were propped up by a Twins pitching staff that managed to keep the Angels off the board for 16.2 consecutive innings. Starting pitcher Dylan Bundy didn’t miss many bats, striking out just one Angel across five innings of work, but surrendered only two hits and lowered his ERA to 4.76.
Caleb Thielbar struck out three and retired his first four hitters as the leading man out of the bullpen; Griffin Jax fanned two Angel hitters when he entered to spell Thielbar with one out in the seventh.
Minnesota worked on some insurance in the eighth. After Jorge Polanco led off with a single, Luis Arraez recorded his fourth three-hit game on this five-game hitting streak. Both runners would move up on the swinging bunt to end all swinging bunts provided by Gio Urshela in the 6-hole, pushing the score to 3-0.
But then, things began to unravel.
Rocco Baldelli made the call for Jhoan Duran to take the eighth inning; with two outs, the Big Man Upstairs’ Boys finally scratched a run across, with Shohei Ohtani scraping one over the tip of Byron Buxton’s glove in dead center field.
The Angels would bring the tying run to the plate, but after one of those classic 100-mph brushback dome pitches, Duran froze cleanup hitter Taylor Ward with off-speed down the middle to retire the side.
The Twins stranded two potential insurance runs in the ninth, meaning that Jorge Lopez would have only a two-run cushion when he entered for his save opportunity in the home half. Jo Adell made it to first with a one-out single, and Max Stassi walked his way aboard with two away, putting the winning run in the batter’s box.
And then, on a 1-2 pitch, Magneuris Sierra sliced a liner into the left field corner. Nick Gordon’s dive came just short, and the merry-go-round began. Both runners came home to score, and Sierra in turn went for the walk-off inside-the-park home run. But Gordon’s throw home, expertly relayed from the short outfield grass by Correa, reached Gary Sanchez in time and cut down Sierra on a play close enough to be challenged.
To extra frames we went.
The Twins left runners at second and third in the top of the tenth, as Max Kepler struck out looking to give the Angels an even better opportunity to walk things off than they had in the previous inning.
In the bottom of the tenth, the stage was set. The Angels had runners on the corners and Luis Rengifo at the plate. Rengifo lined the first pitch from Emilio Pagan back up the box, on such a sinking, “this is a base hit if I’ve ever seen one” trajectory that Dick Bremer even said it was a “base hit,” 2009 Chip Caray-style.
But after having giveneth earlier, Byron Buxton tooketh away.
Sweeping into shallow center, Buxton caught the liner with some of the more lightning-esque reflexes you might ever see him display. Both runners were caught off the bag — Shohei was stealing on the pitch to avoid the double play after having been intentionally walked — and after firing back into the infield, Buck doubled Ohtani off first, and inexplicably sent the game to the eleventh (simultaneously sending this recap into 800-word territory.)
The Twins, of course, were gifted a runner again in the visiting eleventh. But for the second straight inning, they couldn’t get the job done — this time, it was Jose Miranda grounding out to turn things back over to Nevin’s Heaven. (That marked 14 LOB on the night — and no, not combined.)
And then, unfortunately, Emilio Pagan.
(It was a walk-off homer to lead off the inning, in case you needed to know.)
SP Dylan Bundy (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, K)
RP Caleb Thielbar (1.1 IP, 3 K)
RP Griffin Jax (0.2. IP, H, 2 K)
SS Carlos Correa (2-for-2, R, 2 RBI, 3 BB, HR)
DH Luis Arraez (3-for-4, BB, SB)
Unfortunately, Emilio Pagan, and some others as well, but mostly, unfortunately, Emilio Pagan
ROBOT ROLL CALL:
I’d like to thank everyone for both coming out and not being Emilio Pagan.