Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: in a perfect world, the Twins wouldn’t have to be staging four-plus-run comebacks. But that’s exactly what has happened each of the last two times out.
It’s something of a cruel irony that one of the league’s best starting rotations dominated the league for much of the season but received paltry run support, and now that the pitching staff has stumbled a bit the offense finally appears to have figured itself out. Then again, the glass-half-full perspective is that the pitching carried the Twins early to allow them to stay in the division lead for the majority of the season and the offense has finally heated up in the dog days of August.
Now, if only this team could fire on all cylinders at the exact same time...
Kenta Maeda started for the Twins and sent Cleveland down 1-2-3 in the first. But the second inning unraveled quickly for the 2020 AL Cy Young runner-up, as the Guardians went single, double, sacrifice fly, double, home run in consecutive order to build a 4-0 lead for Cleveland.
The Twins responded immediately, however, with a rapid rally of their own in the bottom of the frame. Carlos Correa led-off with a single and moved to third base on a Jorge Polanco double. Ryan Jeffers struck out but Matt Wallner was hit by a pitch once again, loading the bases for Donovan Solano. Guardians starter Xzavion Curry committed a balk, allowing the Twins to get on the board. Solano singled in another run to make it 4-2. Michael A. Taylor struck out before Eddie Julien walked to load the bases once again.
Royce Lewis, who keyed the Twins’ comeback on Sunday by stroking a grand slam to center field to cut into a 5-0 deficit, got just enough of a hanging breaking ball to coax it into the visiting bullpen in left-center field and put the Twins in front, 6-4.
Cleveland got one back in the third but Wallner quickly canceled it out with a massive solo shot, changing the scoreboard to 7-5 after three innings.
The Guardians scored another single run in the fourth on a pair of doubles, signaling the end of the night for Maeda. Once again, the Twins answered, this time with a Lewis single, a Max Kepler walk, and a Jorge Polanco dinger to left field, pushing the Twins’ lead to 10-6. Believe it or not, that’s where the score stayed, with all 16 runs being plated in the opening four frames.
The Twins put in Kody Funderburk, the lefty who had been called up (over?) from St. Paul earlier in the day. In his debut, Funderburk pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts, looking completely comfortable and totally in command.
Josh Winder was next, and he pitched three perfect innings of his own. Together, Funderburk and Winder saved a weary Twins bullpen that had been taxed after Sunday’s 13-inning affair against Texas.
The Twins offense largely sputtered to the finish line, but due to the bullpen’s effort, 10 runs through four innings was enough to hold up. And just like that, the Twins’ division lead has grown to seven games.
- In case you didn’t want to do the math noted above, Funderburk and Winder combined to throw five innings of runner-less baseball, including four strikeouts. It was almost entirely weak contact from the Guardians, and an impressive display from the Twins’ middle/long relievers.
- How about Royce Lewis? Per the Twins’ broadcast, Lewis is the first Twins player in history to hit grand slams in consecutive games and only the third player in MLB history with three grand slams in their first 50 career contests. The dude just has a knack for the big spots, doesn’t he? Or maybe it’s just that he’s a really good hitter. Or, maybe it’s both.
- Every Twins starter except Jeffers had at least one hit.
- Michael A. Taylor reached on an infield single and eventually stole third base in the eighth inning, which is a really good sign for someone who reportedly had hamstring issues only a few days ago. His ability to play plus defense in center field is huge for this team, and it certainly appears as though his legs are feeling much better.
- Royce Lewis: 2-for-4, 4 RBI, GS, 2 R, BB
- Jorge Polanco: 2-for-4, 3 RBI, HR, 2 R
- Donovan Solano: 3-for-4, RBI, R
- Kody Funderburk: 2 IP, 3 K, 0 H, 0 BB
- Josh Winder: 3 IP, 2 K, 0 H, 0 BB
- None, Twins win! Twins win!