Twins finally step into the spotlight in hard-fought extra-innings win

June 10th, 2023

TORONTO -- These kinds of games beg for heroes to emerge. And the Twins’ 3-2, 10-inning win over the Blue Jays finally gave Minnesota a chance to thrive in the spotlight.

Multiple saviors did their part at Rogers Centre on Friday as the Twins exorcised all their frustrations and spit out one of their grittiest efforts of the season. Not only did this rollercoaster victory snap a five-game losing skid, but it also put a firm stamp on a contest that flip-flopped between hope and agony all evening.

It was a good way to shift the narrative.

For the last little while ahead of Friday’s win, no Twins player had thrived in the spotlight. Instead, Minnesota had beaten itself. When the offense wasn’t firing, no one hitter had dug deep and emerged to lift his team out of a hole. As the narrow losses added up, no single pitcher had possessed the capabilities to single-handedly drag their club through a tight contest.

But guys stepped up on both sides this time, and was the Twins’ shining star. Tasked with weathering a dangerous Toronto lineup in a tied ninth inning, the typically unflappable fireballer tripped up. Duran drilled a batter and surrendered a double, bringing the ballpark to a boil. As 35,222 rowdy Torontonians hollered, the Twins -- staring at another painful loss -- clamped down.

“Duran, he made a lot of things happen today,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “It wasn't smooth, and he's normally so efficient. Today wasn't his most efficient outing.”

The skipper was right. Duran didn’t have his best stuff. And this was a moment in which, perhaps several games ago, Minnesota would’ve fallen short. Not this time, though.

“I work every day for that moment,” Duran said, keeping it cool when describing the game’s most tense moment. “I prepare for that. … That’s my mentality every day, so that’s it.”

The magic act began when Duran got Alejandro Kirk to ground out, then he whiffed Bo Bichette for a massive second out. The Twins elected to walk Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to load the bases, leaving it all in the hands of Brandon Belt, whom Duran sat down on a lineout after a lengthy at-bat.

Minnesota’s dugout breathed a massive sigh of relief. Baldelli praised Duran for trusting his electric fastball-splitter combo to keep hitters off balance in a high-pressure spot.

“There's not many guys in the world that throw the ball like that,” Baldelli said. “So you have to try to make a different type of adjustment against him. And that generally is a good thing. You want guys out of their comfort zone.”

After slipping out of the ninth, Minnesota was playing with house money. The club danced around defeat and attacked the top of the 10th with full force. singled to move the automatic runner to third, and when his teammates needed him most, smacked a tie-breaking sac fly to left.

Taylor’s clutch at-bat was a fitting bookend to a lively night for the defensive specialist. The 32-year-old also hit a two-run home run to open the scoring in the fifth inning. Taylor’s nine home runs rank third on the team, which has drawn more attention to the outfielder’s offensive capabilities. Baldelli, however, knew that talent was there all along.

“He's been so valuable for us,” Baldelli said. “There's no way around it. But the big swing today -- he's had a few of those. He's gotten on top of some fastballs, but today he kind of dropped the barrel on that one and shoots it over the fence.”

The Twins, leaning on momentum, handed the ball back to Duran for the 10th inning. With the lead in his back pocket and the adrenaline flowing, the 25-year-old high-leverage machine showed no fear. Despite nearing the 40-pitch mark and dealing with the automatic runner on second, Duran sat down the Blue Jays to wrap up a heart-pounding win.

For a club that’s been downtrodden for a while, this was big. It was a full 10-inning effort that began with one mighty swing on offense, remained afloat with another excellent outing from and concluded with a ferocious effort from the bullpen.

With the victory, Minnesota reached a 7-12 mark in one-run games, proving there are still some issues to iron out. But, for now, the Twins will savor the catharsis of this evening and appreciate the effort it took to get back in the win column.

“When you finally fight and fight and fight … and you win, the guys come through, it makes it feel like all that fight is worth it,” Baldelli said.