A day after bullpen command did the Twins in, Minnesota rallies back from a 5-0 hole with a Royce Lewis grand slam and some Donnie Barrels clutchness to force extra innings and win via a walk-off walk in the 13th inning. Dallas Keuchel delivered five scoreless innings in a bulk ‘pen role and the rest of the relievers gave the Twins offense more than enough chances to pull this one out.
Bailey Ober and left-hander Jordan Montgomery started this one for their respective clubs, each working a 1-2-3 first inning.
Texas got onto the scoreboard first in the top of 2nd inning when 27-year-old rookie outfielder J.P. Martinez belted his first-career home run onto the plaza in right field. Martinez got on top of a high Ober fastball and gave it a 404-foot ride. Texas 1, Minnesota 0
Minnesota, which has been working through plans to manage Ober’s now career-high workload and is dealing with an overworked bullpen, came into this game with a plan to lift Ober early in a piggy-back arrangement with soft-tossing left-hander Dallas Keuchel in hopes of staying away from all the other relievers.
After Ober worked around a two-out single in a scoreless third inning, Texas ensured that Ober would come out of the game after just four innings.
The Texas half of the 4th began with a Nathaniel Lowe groundball double into the right-field corner. Former Twin Mitch Garver followed that with an end-of-the-bat chip shot single to right. Another former Twin, outfielder Robbie Grossman exercised his superb plate discipline in drawing a walk to load the bases.
Ober managed to strike out Martinez for the first out, which prompted Danny Gladden to start talking on the radio about the momentum the Twins would get with a potential ground-ball double play to escape the threat. That energy would be short-lived, however, as Texas catcher Jonah Heim golfed a first-pitch Ober changeup that was below the zone just over the limestone in right field for a grand slam. Texas 5, Minnesota 0
Ober would get the next two batters to finish the fourth and keep the score there. He allowed 5 runs in 4 innings, with 4 strikeouts, a walk, and two home runs allowed on 73 pitches.
Meanwhile, Montgomery cruised through the Twins lineup the first time through. Jorge Polanco, batting second, managed Minnesota’s first hit, a single, in the bottom of the fourth but didn’t advance from there.
Keuchel and his contact management routine took over in the top of the fifth inning, and, on cue, he coaxed a double play grounder to work a scoreless inning. Minnesota mounted a bit of threat in the bottom half when Ryan Jeffers drew a walk and Kyle Farmer knocked a single, but Matt Wallner flew out to right and Michael A. Taylor struck out to end the rally without a run.
Keuchel worked around a one-out walk in the 6th to keep Texas from extending the lead. That set the stage for the Twins offense to come to life. Donovan Solano led off with a single. Polanco added another of his own and Carlos Correa drew a walk to load the bases with one out.
That ended Montgomery’s day after 5.1 innings and brought in reliever Chris Stratton to face Royce Lewis. After waving through a first-pitch slider, Lewis sat on another one and, upon getting it, drove a screaming liner over the fence in center field for a grand slam home run that brought the Twins within a run. Texas 5, Twins 4
Bats get going in the 6th! Back to back singles, a one out walk loaded the bases, and then Royce Lewis unloaded... Grand Slam and @Twins are right back in! Check out the call here, Twins trail Texas 5-4 in the 7th... pic.twitter.com/k21ni77ZqR— TwinsRadio (@TwinsRadio) August 27, 2023
Lewis’ homer was measured at 111.7 mph and just 20° off the bat. It had the kind of flight profile seen more often from a long iron shot on the PGA tour than an MLB game.
Keuchel kept the Texas lead to a run through their half of the 7th with the help of some nice outfield work by Jordan Luplow and Wallner on a couple of hard-hit balls.
Solano, who was not lifted here for a left-handed pinch hitter (probably because of the presence of three solid left-handed relievers in the Texas ‘pen) drew a two-out walk against Stratton in the bottom half. Taylor and Polanco both gave the crowd some brief excitement with warning track flyouts to end the inning.
Texas again didn’t score against Keuchel in the 8th. Minnesota generated another rally in the bottom half with a Kepler single and another Correa walk against right-hander José Leclerc. That brought Lewis up with another chance to play hero, but he popped out on the first pitch. Jeffers worked a deep at-bat and just missed a three-run homer when his liner down the left-field line hooked just outside the pole before smashing into the limestone. He would eventually strike out.
That brought about some platoon advantage musical chairs. Edouard Julien was announced as a pinch hitter for Kyle Farmer with two outs, which prompted Texas to go to lefty Will Smith from their bullpen. Baldelli then used Christian Vázquez as a pinch hitter for Julien, but Smith struck him out to end the inning.
Keuchel, now in his fifth inning of work, put up yet another zero in the top of the 9th, despite a Marcus Semien walk and a Corey Seager single.
Aroldis Chapman took over for the save attempt and first faced Matt Wallner, who struck out. Wallner appeared to draw a walk to lead off the inning, but Chapman’s 3-1 fastball was ruled to be a strike at the top of the zone. Chapman then walked Taylor without controversy.
Taylor, operating at less than 100% with a tight hamstring, still managed to make the threat of a stolen base work to his advantage. Two Chapman throws to first base, plus a pre-pitch catcher’s timeout equaled a three disengagement balk (per the new disengagement rules) that pushed Taylor into scoring position for one Donnie Barrels, who came through in the clutch once again to tie the game at 5:
Polanco struck out for the 2nd out. Solano advanced to second on a wild pitch during Kepler’s at-bat, and Kepler would eventually walk to give Carlos Correa a two-on and two-out opportunity to win the game with a walk-off. Correa worked a nine-pitch at-bat, fouling off several difficult Chapman pitches. On 3-2, and clearly sitting on a 102-mph fastball, Correa chased a 88-mph slider in the dirt and struck out to take the game to extra innings.
Jhoan Duran took over for the top half of Manfredball and managed to get out unscathed and unscored upon despite a rare Correa error. A harmless flyout and a 5-4-3 double play kept Texas off the board.
Minnesota did nothing in the bottom of the 10th, not even moving the zombie runner, by flying out twice and grounding out to the pitcher.
Caleb Thielbar was summoned to work the top half of the 11th. He first faced the switch-hitting Heim, who recently was on the IL with a wrist tendon injury that has him limited to swinging left-handed. Advantage, Thielbar. Twins Territory’s favorite Meat Raffle coaxed a lazy flyout from Heim and then punched out Ezequiel Durán on four high fastballs and got Leody Taveras looking on a backdoor bender that was generously called a strike (a theme today).
The Minnesota half of the 11th was marked by poor baserunning. Joey Gallo took over as the Manfred Man, running for Vázquez. Wallner led off against Josh Sborz, who pounded Wallner inside with mid-90s fastballs repeatedly. Wallner popped one up into foul territory by the Twins’ dugout and was out when Lowe reached over the railing for the catch. Gallo, seeing Lowe leaning over the railing, started to tag for 3rd, thought better of it, and fell down trying to get back to second base. Lowe alertly threw to second base for the double play to effectively end Minnesota’s half.
Emilío Pagán took over for the 12th. Two flyouts from Semien and Seager allowed Texas to scratch across a run and take a 6-5 lead. Pagán struck out Lowe to keep it there. Texas 6, Minnesota 5
Solano led off the Twins half with a walk. Both runners moved up a base and into scoring position on a wild pitch with Polanco at the plate. Polanco hit a hot smash to third base that was gloved by Durán. It was hit hard enough and far enough to Durán’s left to enable Taylor to score the tying run, but Solano, anticipating the ball getting through, ran into another out on the bases. Rangers 6, Twins 6
That would prove important when Kepler, facing lefty Brock Burke, lined a hard single to center field that would have easily scored Solano from second base and ended the game. Instead, the Twins had runners on 1st and 2nd for Correa. Correa hit a hard grounder to second base that was easily turned into his league-leading 26th double play and ended the inning.
By playing a 13th inning, this game became the Twins’ longest of the season.
Dylan Floro worked the top half with the late afternoon Target Field shadows in his favor. He walked Garver to lead off the inning but then struck out Travis Jankowski and Adolis García. It was clear that the hitters were having trouble seeing the ball through the shadows as Jankowski and García both swung and missed by wide margins. Heim then grounded out to Correa on the right side of second base to end the inning without a run.
Texas brought in right-hander Jonathan Hernández and his 11% walk rate to work the bottom half. The shadows, combined with Hernández’s upper-90s heater and upper-80s slider drew ugly swinging strikeouts from Lewis and Jeffers. Gallo and his 43.4% strikeout rate came to the plate for his first appearance of the day and promptly drew a 4-pitch walk. You can’t predict ball, guys. (But he does walk a fair bit, 14.2%)
Matt Wallner kept the line moving by drawing another walk. With the bases loaded and two outs, Michael A. Taylor would play hero, by standing and watching.
Ball one. Ball two. Ball three. Ball four. Ball game!
Taylor’s walk forced in the winning run and gave the Twins the series. It was their league-leading 10th walk-off win of the season. Twins 7, Rangers 6. Final/13 innings.
Dallas Keuchel (5IP, 5H, 0R, 2BB, 3K – yeoman’s work)
All Other Relievers (Duran, Thielbar, Pagán, Floro: 4IP, 0H, 0ER, 1BB, 5K)
Royce Lewis (1-6, Grand Slam)
Michael A. Taylor (0-4, but 2BB and 2R)
Donovan Solano (2-4, 2BB, RBI, R)
Not today. Twins win! (Although, Correa’s performance in the late innings would qualify.)
Any critical cheapshots at the Commissioner for his contrived extra innings solution looking for a problem get my vote. Uncle Lincoln delivers that here.
Injury Update Roundup:
Before the game, the Twins dropped a bevy of mostly positive injury updates. Byron Buxton and Alex Kirilloff will take live batting practice against Jorge Alcalá this week, and if all goes well are expected to begin rehab assignments later in the week. Alcalá has thrown five bullpens recently and is scheduled for two or three live batting practices in the next week to ten days. Also notable is that when Buxton begins a rehab assignment it will include playing center field.
That all comes on the heels of Brock Stewart responding well after a 15-pitch bullpen session on Friday and Chris Paddack working a two-inning live batting practice session late last week. The Twins front office also revealed their plans for Louie Varland and Kenta Maeda to prepare for bullpen duties in a potential playoff series.
Cleveland won against Toronto in extra innings, so the AL Central lead stays +6.
Tomorrow, 6:40p first pitch against Cleveland. It will be Maeda and Xzavion Curry as the Twins have their first real opportunity to put an end to the 2023 AL Central race. I would anticipate a roster move or two in the bullpen as the Twins used four relievers in a game they had hoped to use none.