Twins rally past Tribe to gain in Wild race
CLEVELAND -- The Twins kept their postseason hopes alive with a late rally, scoring the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the ninth in a 4-2 win over the Indians on Thursday night at Progressive Field.
It helped the Twins (83-76) move to one game back of the Astros for the second American League Wild Card spot with three games left in the regular season. The Twins are also tied with the Angels after their loss to the Rangers, who clinched a postseason berth.
"We just have to find ways to extend this thing," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We're at three games left and we're still there. We need help. We all know that. Even if we win out, we need help. But we're going to try to win as many games as we can."
After tying the game with a run in the eighth, the Twins scored twice in the ninth, helped by an error from second baseman Jose Ramirez with one out. Eddie Rosario followed with a single to right to move pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez to third. With Torii Hunter at the plate, Nunez scored on a wild pitch from Indians closer Cody Allen before Hunter gave the Twins an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to right.
Twins rookie right-hander Tyler Duffey turned in another solid outing, but was hurt by one bad pitch to Tribe catcher Roberto Perez in the seventh. After allowing a one-out single to Abraham Almonte, Duffey fell behind Perez and served up a go-ahead homer on a 3-1 fastball. It was the last batter for Duffey, who went 6 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Duffey finishes the regular season going 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 10 starts, and he is the Twins' top candidate to start a potential AL Wild Card Game, presented by Budweiser.
"He's developed into like an ace role," Hunter said. "Every time he goes out there, he gives us a chance to win."
The Indians received a strong performance from right-hander Trevor Bauer, who went seven innings, surrendering one run on two hits and three walks. It was the first start for Bauer since Sept. 13. The lone run came on an RBI ground-rule double from Trevor Plouffe with two outs in the fourth.
"I thought he did a really good job, and he's been through a lot the last month," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Bauer. "For him to go out like that, I think it's certainly really on a positive note. You could tell he was trying to throw his fastball down and away, down, and then when he did come in, certainly very effective. That was good to see."
But Bauer was stuck with a no-decision, as the Twins rallied for a run in the eighth against reliever Bryan Shaw. Pinch-hitter Danny Santana drew a one-out walk -- just his sixth base on balls in 272 plate appearances this year -- and scored on a double from Eduardo Escobar to tie the game.
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Wild pitch proves costly: On a 2-2 count, Allen threw a curveball that Perez couldn't handle, allowing Nunez to score what proved to be the game-winning run from third. And on the very next pitch, Hunter lifted a fly ball to deep right to pad the lead for the Twins. Closer Kevin Jepsen came in with a scoreless ninth to close it out.
"The game plan was to take a shot at him," Perez said of facing Hunter. "If we don't, we were going to walk him. I think Cody made some good pitches. He got him to two strikes. He was going for a strikeout and he bounced it. It went in front of home plate and I tried to do anything I could to block it, but it got away."
Well struck: Perez's go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh inning had an exit velocity of 111.96 mph, according to Statcast™. That represented the hardest-hit homer of the season for the Indians, beating Ryan Raburn's 110-mph blast on April 20. Perez now has seven home runs on the season.
"I was surprised that it went out," Perez said. "I even told [teammate Michael] Brantley, I said, 'I know how it feels now to hit the ball really good.' I wasn't trying to do too much there. I was trying to put the ball in play. It was 3-1, so it was my favorite count. Every hitter wants to be ahead in the count. It was a fastball, middle in, and I put a good swing on it."
Escobar ties it: After Duffey gave up a go-ahead homer in the seventh, the Twins came back to quickly even the score with a one-out RBI double from Escobar down the left-field line with Santana running on the pitch. Brian Dozier followed with an infield single to put runners at first and third for the Twins with one out. But Indians closer Allen came in and got Joe Mauer to ground into a double play to end the scoring threat.
"For him to hang in there and punch that ball down in the corner, especially with the runner in motion, it was just a huge hit to get us back in the game," Molitor said. "I won't say it's easier playing when it's even, but those at-bats are tougher when you're behind, so that was a big at-bat."
No fireworks: A day after the Twins took exception to Ramirez's eighth-inning home run celebration, Ramirez was batting leadoff for the Tribe. While Minnesota pitcher Ricky Nolasco warned Wednesday that Ramirez would "get his," all the Indians infielder got was an 0-for-4 showing. Ramirez also made a throwing error that helped pave the way for the Twins' rally in the ninth inning.
"It wasn't an easy play, but the game can be humbling," Francona said of Ramirez's error. "I'm sure [the Twins] took a little extra satisfaction out of that."
"I love our chances. Being a game back with three games to go. All we wanted was a chance to compete and make the postseason. We've given ourselves a chance right now. This team has fought all year and we overcame a lot of odds, so I'm excited." -- Hunter
"It's definitely nice to finish on a positive note. Personally, it can feel good mentally going into the offseason." -- Bauer More >
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• Jason Kipnis' double in the fourth inning gave him 43 on the season, putting him two behind teammate Michael Brantley's Major League-leading 45. Kipnis and Brantley are the first Cleveland teammates with at least 43 doubles apiece in the same season since 1936 (Odell Hale and Hal Trosky).
• With his strikeout in the first inning, Dozier passed Bobby Darwin's franchise record for strikeouts in a single season with 146. Darwin struck out 145 times in 1972.
Twins: The Twins return home to start a pivotal three-game series against the Royals that begins Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Ervin Santana (7-4, 4.10 ERA) has been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, as he's 5-0 with a 1.47 ERA over his last six starts. He's struck out 44 and walked 11 in 43 innings, while going at least seven innings in all six outings.
Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin (6-2, 3.03 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe in the opener of a season-ending three-game set against the Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday at Progressive Field. Tomlin had a 1.98 ERA and .177 opponents' average in his five starts leading up to Saturday, when he allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Royals.
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