It was the Hunter Greene Show in Cincinnati today, but the Twins were able to put together one of their most impressive rallies of the season to come back and win.
With Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis hurt, and Matt Wallner and Alex Kirilloff getting off days, the Twins didn’t have their best lineup, perfectly setting the table for Greene to have a career day.
Bailey Ober took the mound for the Twins in his second start since his mid-season break. Ober was solid, if unspectacular. He struggled a bit with his command, allowing three walks and extending plate appearances longer than they should have gone. When it was all said and done, Ober finished with five innings, surrendering three hits, three walks, and two runs while striking out only three. Unfortunately, Hunter Greene perfectly demonstrated why he was selected right behind Royce Lewis in the 2017 Draft.
Striking out a ton against Greene isn’t an indictment of the offense, in fact it’s generally expected. Greene has some of the best stuff in all of baseball and one of the best strikeout rates to go along with it. His only real issue has been his command, and he was keeping everything in and around the zone today, putting the Twins in a tough position.
After sailing through six innings, the Twins were finally able to get a run off of the Reds’ ace in the seventh on a solo shot from superhero Willi Castro. Greene dominated the rest of the inning, finishing the day throwing seven innings and striking out 14 Twins batters. However, the Reds quickly answered in the bottom half of the seventh thanks to a weird failed bunt by Luke Maile that eventually turned into an RBI single.
Much to the appreciation of the entire state of Minnesota, Greene was pulled after 7 innings, giving way to former Twin (albeit briefly) Ian Gibaut. Christian Vázquez led off with a double, coming around to score on a single by Edouard Julien. A short single by Solano got two men on base for Max Kepler, but he grounded out to end the threat.
The Twins had their work cut out for them against Reds closer Alexis Díaz, who had been one of the best closers in baseball this season. However, the Twins used a little bit of small ball to immediately score a run and tie the game. Castro led off with a bunt single, then stole second on the first pitch of Kyle Farmer’s at-bat. The ball skipped into the outfield, allowing Castro to reach third. On the very next pitch, Farmer slapped a ball to right to tie the game, giving Díaz just his third blown save of the year.
Then the game of manager chess took place. Interim manager Jayce Tingler brought in Trevor Larnach to hit for Michael A. Taylor, so Reds manager David Bell countered with the lefty pitcher Sam Moll. Moll got Larnach to strike out, then Tingler brought in Ryan Jeffers to hit for Matt Wallner, who Bell (somewhat surprisingly) intentionally walked to face Jorge Polanco. Polanco followed with a bases-loaded single to score two and give the Twins their first lead of the game.
With Jhoan Duran used in the 8th, Griffin Jax came in to close things out. He struggled to throw strikes but was ultimately able to shut down the Reds and lower the Twins’ magic number to 2.
At the end of it all, it was an incredibly impressive win for the Twins. With many of their best players out of the lineup, they fought back after being shut down all day and won against a team that is fighting for their playoff lives. A big win in a playoff-esque atmosphere.
Jorge Polanco: go-ahead, two-run single in the 9th
Willi Castro: 2-4, 2 R, SB, HR off of the untouchable Hunter Greene
Christian Vázquez: 2-3, 2 R
No duds that’s a Twins win!!
As of this writing, the Royals lead the Guardians 3-2, meaning there’s a decent chance the Twins could end up anticlimactically clinching on their off day. For the first time all season, go Cleveland!