MINNEAPOLIS -- It took a wild game that saw the benches clear twice and an especially crazy final four innings, including the 10th and final frame on Sunday, but the Twins are headed into the All-Star break with some momentum.
The Twins took the lead in both the seventh and eighth innings -- only to fail to protect it each time -- before James Dozier finally ended the game with a grand slam to left field off reliever Matt Andriese in the 10th. The 11-7 victory helped Minnesota finish its homestand with a 9-2 record to end the first half. The Twins trail the first-place Indians by 7 1/2 games with 68 to play.
"It was a very odd game," Dozier said. "I was talking with [umpire] Jeff Kellogg at second base in like the eighth inning, and he said, 'We all might need a week off after this game, because it's pretty unique.' To win it, that says a lot. I'm proud of the way the guys fought."
Jake Cave started the rally with a leadoff double, and the Rays opted to issue intentional walks to load the bases after a sacrifice bunt. On a 1-1 count from Andriese, Dozier made sure the game was over with his fourth walk-off homer of his career and the fifth walk-off grand slam in Twins history.
"Showed a lot of fight," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We had to come back more than a couple of times and find a way to get it done. In the end, Brian got an opportunity. Thankfully he got it out of the park. He ended it in dramatic style."
The Rays nearly spoiled Minnesota's comeback in the seventh, scoring twice in the eighth to retake the lead, only to see the Twins load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the inning. Joe Mauer drew a bases-loaded walk to set up Eddie Rosario's heroics with his RBI single into center. Cave was thrown out at home on the play to end the inning, and it was upheld by replay despite it appearing like he got his foot in before the tag.
It ended up being pivotal with Trevor Hildenberger unable to hold the lead in the ninth, allowing the game-tying run to score on a two-out RBI single from Joey Wendle.
• Rosario hit himself with his own bat flip
Minnesota entered the seventh down by three runs, but rallied back, keyed by a two-out RBI single from Rosario with two strikes to keep the inning alive. Dozier then reached on an infield single to third, and that's when things got weird at Target Field.
With the play taking third baseman Daniel Robertson away from the bag, Rosario raced for third after the throw to first and reached safely, with the throw getting away to allow him to score the tying run and Dozier to reach third.
Dozier then began to dance off third, trying to force rookie reliever Diego Castillo into a balk, and it worked, much to the chagrin of Rays manager Kevin Cash. A 101-mph fastball then came in close to Escobar, causing both dugouts to yell at each other with Escobar taking offense to Robertson's chirping from third base.
Nobody was ejected in the initial skirmish, but the benches cleared for a second time as Escobar was headed back to his position at third base. Escobar was then ejected with Ehire Adrianza replacing him.
"It seemed to me that all of a sudden their pitcher decides to throw one 101 at Esco's legs, and we reacted," Molitor said. "The intensity picked up and eventually we got back to playing. After the strikeout, there was some from what I best can gather, I think a couple of their guys, they were taunting Esco a little bit and he reacted."
The Rays had taken an early lead against rookie right-hander Fernando Romero, who gave up four runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings. He was hurt in the second inning, surrendering five straight singles to bring home three runs and also gave up an RBI double to Wendle in the fifth. Romero was optioned to Triple-A Rochester after the game.
"It was just a hard-fought game," Mauer said. "I know we were out on the field, both teams, but when you look at the baseball part of it, it was back and forth. Guys were battling. It was a good ballgame, and I'm glad we got the series win."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Rodney enters in the fifth: In an unusual move, the Twins brought in closer Fernando Rodney to clean up Romero's mess in the fifth inning, but it was because Rodney had a flight to catch to Miami for an immigration hearing Monday morning. Rodney, pitching in the fifth inning for the third time in his career and the first time since July 8, 2005, escaped a jam with runners at first and third with one out. He struck out Carlos Gomez and got Mallex Smith to ground out to finish the first half with a 3.12 ERA.
"To be honest with you, it wasn't about being overly strategic," Molitor said. "He had a flight that he had to catch and all that kind of stuff, so we had postponed it a couple of times, trying to get it a time that was more feasible. But it turned out tomorrow was the only day and so got him in the game a little earlier. It worked out pretty well, because he got a couple of really big outs."
The Twins finish the first half with a 44-50 record after going 45-43 before last year's All-Star break. Minnesota was 2 1/2 games back of the Indians at the break last season.
HE SAID IT
"We knew that this homestand was huge -- every game is big -- as far as proving or however you want to word it. We knew that we had to make hay coming into here. 9-2? That's pretty dang good. We're playing good baseball. We all need a break." -- Dozier
After the All-Star break, right-hander Kyle Gibson (4-6, 3.42 ERA) will take the mound for the Twins against the Royals on Friday at Kauffman Stadium at 7:15 p.m. CT. Gibson had an impressive first half, striking out 114 batters in 115 2/3 innings, and gave up one run over eight innings in a win against the Rays last time out. The Royals will start lefty Danny Duffy (5-8, 4.59).