CLEVELAND -- The script was similar to Wednesday, as the Twins saw one of their key players hit a game-tying homer late in the game, only to suffer another walk-off loss.A day after Miguel Sano tied the game with a homer in the ninth in a 5-2 loss on Wednesday,
CLEVELAND -- The script was similar to Wednesday, as the Twins saw one of their key players hit a game-tying homer late in the game, only to suffer another walk-off loss.
A day after Miguel Sano tied the game with a homer in the ninth in a 5-2 loss on Wednesday, Jorge Polanco ripped a three-run homer off ace Corey Kluber to tie the game in the sixth, but Michael Brantley delivered a game-winning RBI single in the ninth in a 5-4 loss on Thursday at Progressive Field. Minnesota dropped three out of four in Cleveland to fall to 11 games back in the American League Central.
Addison Reed, pitching for the first time since Saturday, gave up a leadoff single to Greg Allen, who stole second, reached third on a grounder and scored on a single from Brantley with the infield in.
"The fact we got walk-offed again is an obvious comparable, but it was a little different in that we got behind to a really good pitcher," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We didn't do a lot of damage, but we got a couple of timely hits and Jorge hitting his first homer. Once we got back to even we kind of stagnated a little bit and couldn't find a way to get that lead run across."
The Twins had trouble putting together anything offensively against Kluber until getting a run in the fifth, when Max Kepler doubled and advanced on a pair of fly balls, including a sacrifice fly from Jake Cave.
But they put two runners on in the sixth, thanks to a misplay from right fielder Melky Cabrera, who couldn't corral a deep fly ball from Eddie Rosario despite it having a catch probability of 99 percent, per Statcast™. It set the stage of Polanco's game-tying three-run homer on a 1-0 cutter for Polanco's first homer since returning from his 80-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It was another good sign for Polanco, who is hitting .280/.353/.392 with seven doubles and 13 RBIs in 33 games this season.
"Since I've come back from the suspension I've just been trying to make good contact with the ball," Polanco said through an interpreter. "Today was the first home run. I wasn't looking for that. It just happened. We all know who Kluber is. He's one of the best pitchers in the league. It gives me personally a lot confidence moving forward."
The homer helped Jose Berrios avoid the loss after he struggled with his control over four innings. The right-hander set a career high with six walks and gave up four runs on four hits to see his ERA rise to 3.66.
"I was opening myself on my release," Berrios said through an interpreter. "I didn't feel strong enough to pitch a good game. It's just one of those weird things. Day games, it hasn't been good for me. But I'm still doing my routine normally like I do all the time."
Berrios gave up a solo homer to Yonder Alonso to open the second and promptly walked Cabrera and Jason Kipnis to find himself in a jam. After a sacrifice bunt, Francisco Lindor stayed hot, smacking a two-run single while getting caught in a rundown between first and second. But the Twins couldn't properly execute the play, as first baseman Sano's throw sailed into left field to allow Lindor to reach second safely. Berrios, though, stranded Lindor by getting Brantley to ground out.
Berrios ran into trouble again in the fourth, as he was hurt by a leadoff walk to Kipnis, who came around to score on an RBI double from Lindor. Berrios escaped further damage by striking out Edwin Encarnacion with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Lefty Gabriel Moya was impressive in relief of Berrios, throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings. It was the third consecutive scoreless appearance for Moya, who has a 2.38 ERA over his last eight appearances dating back to July 1.
"Just build on the positives," Molitor said. "The outcome wasn't good, but [Moya] was outstanding. We kind of pushed him to go back out for those last two outs after he'd already recorded six. It was a nice performance by him."
Twins hitting coach James Rowson was ejected in the seventh inning by home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson for arguing balls and strikes. Sano was angered by a called third strike in the previous inning, and Rowson took issue with a called third strike on Ehire Adrianza for the first out of the seventh. It was the first time Rowson had been ejected in his career.
"I think there's going to be things almost every day that aren't going to be perfect in terms of strikes and balls," Molitor said. "There were some complaints on both sides that were ongoing. I haven't looked at the video or anything like that. It's just part of the game. There was some frustration, for sure. It seemed like we had some strike threes called that were borderline pitches. Sometimes you've got to fight through those things. He protects his hitters."
The Twins have suffered a Major League-high 12 walk-off losses this season. The club record is 15 walk-off losses in 1964. The MLB record is 16, shared by the '69 Giants, the '75 Astros and the '66 Red Sox.
HE SAID IT
"I know subconsciously he's been thinking about that for a little while. Picked a good time for it." -- Molitor, on Polanco's homer
Right-hander Ervin Santana (0-0, 6.14 ERA) will take the mound for the Twins when they open a three-game series against the Tigers on Friday at Comerica Park at 6:10 p.m. CT. Santana, who will be making his fourth start of the season, is working to regain his velocity after undergoing surgery on his right middle finger in early February. He gave up three runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Royals last time out. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (4-4, 4.31) starts for Detroit.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.