Tyler Duffey thought the eighth inning should have been over, with the Twins on top. So did Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli. However, the balls that they thought were strikes -- in addition to wildness and missed opportunities -- allowed the Yankees to surge and tie the game.
That’s the kind of circumstance that somehow manages to find the Twins more frequently, it seems, whenever they’re facing their historic foils in the Yankees. Gary Sánchez went on to give New York a 6-5 win in 10 innings with a walk-off single that gave his club its sixth unanswered run.
“The way that played out toward the end of the game, it's tough to swallow,” Baldelli said. “We're battling our [rears] off out there, but things got tight and we thought that inning should have been over.”
Moments after Baldelli was ejected for the second time this season after arguing several close pitches at the top and bottom of the zone in the bottom of the eighth, Aaron Judge crushed a game-tying three-run homer to right-center field against right-hander Alex Colomé to complete a five-run comeback that erased the Twins' early dominance on both sides of the ball.
Most of those calls came against Duffey’s curveball, and the one he was most upset about was a 3-2 pitch to Brett Gardner that ended his outing, resulting in a two-out walk that gave New York two runners on. That brought Colomé into a messy eighth, and Judge’s big swing turned the tide of the game.
“It’s frustrating when you go out and do your job and execute a pitch you wanted to throw on purpose,” Duffey said. “You hit your spot you were trying to hit."
“I mean, it doesn't play out any more frustrating than that,” Baldelli said.
The Twins had missed several opportunities to add to their early lead when they put multiple runners on base in the sixth, eighth and ninth, but they couldn’t get the big swings they had earlier in the game.
“We have to find ways to score more runs, to tack on and extend our lead,” Baldelli said. “We had some opportunities to do so. We weren’t able to do so. It’s still a game you expect to not just compete in, when you’re in that situation middle, late in the game, you expect to win that ballgame. ... I mean, that’s what it really comes down to. We were in position to win and didn’t win the ballgame.”
In a game with postseason ramifications for the scuffling Yankees, the Twins ambushed former Minnesota farmhand Luis Gil for four runs in the first inning, including Jorge Polanco’s 30th homer of the season, a two-run blast that set the club record for most in a season by a switch-hitter. He's also one of two second basemen in club history to record a 30-homer season, joining Brian Dozier, who hit 42 in 2016 and 34 in '17.
Sanó also crushed a two-run homer in the first, his first of three hits, and Byron Buxton added a solo homer in the third, his third home run in four games. Meanwhile, the Twins held the Yankees hitless through the first four innings of what became a makeshift bullpen game when starter John Gant exited after facing three batters with a lower abdominal strain, which will send him to the injured list on Tuesday.
All of those circumstances made the late frustration all the more emotional for the Twins. They lost an off-day in the middle of a homestand to fly to New York for a day game and couldn't come away with a win before returning home for a seven-inning doubleheader against Cleveland on Tuesday. They're currently in a stretch of 14 games in 13 days.
“We just started out flat and never really recovered,” Duffey said. “Fortunately, I think that the silver lining in all of it is that we've been playing great baseball for the last, it seems like, month-and-a-half. We've played some great series against some division-leading teams, played a great game today. As a bullpen, especially, we had to come out and battle a little bit, and we did our jobs. It's unfortunate that the ending happened.”