One of the main storylines of the Minnesota Twins’ season so far is their inability to come through in the late innings, whether it be bullpen collapses or, more frequently, completely non-competitive at-bats.
On Memorial Day afternoon in Houston, however, the Twins took a lead into the late innings that was relinquished on one swing of Jose Altuve’s bat, but Minnesota was able to tie the game in the ninth inning and surge ahead for good in the tenth.
This game started out like so many of Sonny Gray’s starts: the opponent flailed away as the offense did just enough for fans to feel good about how the game was going.
After a warning-track fly-out in his first at-bat, Royce Lewis’s second major-league at-bat of 2023 ended with an opposite-field poke that bounced off the top of the wall before ricocheting off the bottom of the foul pole. It was a fantastic piece of hitting, with the former number-one-overall pick staying through the ball beautifully and sneaking just fair and just over the wall for a three-run homer.
The Twins added a run in the fourth on a Ryan Jeffers single, a force-out from Willi Castro, and a single from Michael A. Taylor that scored Castro from second after a J.P. France wild pitch.
The Astros got one back in the bottom of the inning after a Joey Gallo whiff at first base allowed leadoff batter Yordan Alvarez to get all the way to second. He eventually scored on a double-play ball off the bat of Kyle Tucker, and the score was 4-1.
Houston didn’t threaten again until the bottom of the seventh. Tucker doubled and Jose Abreu walked, signaling the end of the afternoon for Gray. Brock Stewart came in and struck out Jake Meyers and Martin Maldonado, sandwiched around a single by Mauricio Dubon. With the bases loaded and two outs, Stewart got too much of the plate on a fastball and Jose Altuve turned on it, parking it in the Crawford Boxes in left field to give the Astros a dramatic 5-4 lead.
The Astros worked around a pop-up gaffe and a Castro stolen base in the top of the eighth, and Jorge Lopez faced the minimum in the bottom of the frame.
Old Friend Ryan Pressly came in to get the save in the ninth, striking out Joey Gallo before Kyle Farmer, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement, singled up the middle. Carlos Correa struck out, and Alex Kirilloff drew a two-out walk to push the potential game-tying run into scoring position, bringing Lewis to the plate.
Lewis came through once again, impressing once again with a smooth opposite-field stroke as he whacked the ball to right-center, just over the glove of a leaping Altuve to score Farmer from second base and tie the game.
Jhoan Duran pitched around a leadoff single in the ninth inning, sending the game to extra innings — a dangerous place for this Twins team.
But Ryan Jeffers stroked the first pitch he saw from Astros pitcher Bryan Abreu, a hanging slider, into the left-field seats to score extra-innings runner Max Kepler from second base and give the Twins a two-run lead. Minnesota gained two more baserunners in the inning but didn’t score again, and Duran came out for a second inning.
Duran quickly surpassed his previous season-high of 25 pitches thrown but set down the Astros 1-2-3 with two strikeouts sandwiched around a groundout, and the Twins hung on for a much-needed extra-innings win in Houston.
- What a return for Lewis. The initial three-run homer to give the Twins an early three-run lead and then a clutch, two-out, game-tying single in the ninth. He also played a strong third base in the game. Turns out, Lewis just might be something special.
- The Twins knocked around Astros pitching a bit, tallying 14 hits on the day and drawing five walks. They went 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position — a nice step in the right direction after a rough weekend at the plate.
- The bullpen was solid, save for Stewart’s one bad pitch to Altuve.
- Max Kepler was not impressive in his return from the injured list.
- Ryan Jeffers swing the bat extremely well in this game, even before the go-ahead homer.
- It was great to see the Twins take a lead, and then not simply give up after the Altuve grand slam. The Twins have had some bad bounces and struggled in close, late situations this year, so it was a breath of fresh air.
- Royce Lewis: 2-for-5, HR, 4 RBI, clutch
- Ryan Jeffers: 3-for-5, game-winning HR, 2 RBI
- Jhoan Duran: 2 IP, 3 K, H
- Carlos Correa: 0-for-5, BB, 2 K
- Max Kepler: 0-for-5, 2 K