MINNEAPOLIS -- Wednesday was already an eventful day with Miguel Sano’s return to Target Field before the game, but things only got more hectic from there.
The Twins appeared to have the series finale under control after jumping out to a five-run lead, but another rally off Trevor Hildenberger in the ninth inning set up a perilous bases-loaded escape by Mike Morin as they weathered 18 Angels hits to hang on for an 8-7 win and a series victory in Wednesday afternoon’s finale against the Halos.
“A pretty exciting game,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “A lot of drama. Ultimately, we had some guys come through and do some really nice things for us. Morin coming in and finishing the game out was good. He made some good pitches and faced the tough part of the lineup and did a good job. A lot going on tonight."
Some early offense on homers from Byron Buxton and Jason Castro and a pair of RBI doubles from Ehire Adrianza and Eddie Rosario proved barely enough to support a shaky bullpen and Jake Odorizzi, who stretched his scoreless streak to 22 1/3 innings -- the fifth longest by a starter in Twins history -- but dealt with traffic on the basepaths in every inning as he allowed three runs on nine hits and two walks in 5 1/3 frames.
Here are three takeaways from Minnesota's series win as the club heads out on a West Coast road trip:
1) Hildenberger demoted, but others have emerged in Twins’ bullpen
Hildenberger entered the ninth inning with a four-run lead but saw things go awry quickly when he allowed a pair of doubles and a single that all eventually turned into Angels runs.
Though Hildenberger had been a key part of the Twins’ bullpen early in the season, when he stranded 14 runners in 11 scoreless appearances to begin the year, he has yielded multiple runs in six of his last eight appearances, which led to him being optioned to Triple-A Rochester following the game.
Morin is among other relievers who have stepped up for Minnesota in higher-leverage situations. Morin allowed a pair of singles and hit Mike Trout with the bases loaded to move the tying run to third, but he induced a groundout from Shohei Ohtani to close out the contest, one day after he also collected a key out to protect a one-run lead.
"This is what we've talked about with our guys all year long,” Baldelli said. “I think they're mentally prepared for this, and I think they know that when they go out there to the bullpen, that they could be brought in in really any situation and we got to see that over the last week -- we've certainly seen it. They're ready.”
Outside of Hildenberger, the Twins’ bullpen had quietly experienced a run of success in May, as it had carried a 2.45 bullpen ERA in the month into Wednesday’s game, the second-best mark in the American League to only the Rays. In fact, before Trevor May allowed a run in the seventh inning on Wednesday, the last time a Minnesota reliever besides Hildenberger had allowed a run had been on May 4.
"I think we have probably one of the more -- and maybe I'm wrong -- but I feel like we have a really unique bullpen, where just about every guy, you feel really comfortable with him in any situation,” starter Kyle Gibson said.
2) Twins take advantage of offensive opportunities
After stranding a combined 39 runners on base in their four-game series split against the Tigers, the Twins broke out of their small slump with runners on base by pounding 10 hits and stranding only five runners in Wednesday’s victory, as compared to the 14 men left on base by the Halos.
As they have done on many occasions this season, the Twins turned to the long ball, with Buxton clubbing his second homer of the season in the fifth inning and Castro extending Minnesota's lead in the sixth with his sixth shot, but the Twins also cashed in on rallies by keeping the ball in the park on Wednesday.
Adrianza’s one-out, two-run double in the third took advantage of an opportunity to put early pressure on the Angels before Rosario’s double with a runner in scoring position capped a four-run rally in the fifth.
“Power ain’t the only thing in baseball,” Buxton said. “Base hits count. Runs count. Today was just one of those days where we all saw the ball pretty well, we put pretty good swings on it. Especially with the heat warming up, the ball carries a little bit better, so those balls, when you square up pretty good, they get out.”
3) Buxton’s bounceback continues at plate, on defense
Buxton’s homer continued a strong homestand that also featured his game-saving outfield assist on Tuesday night, when he also drove in the eventual winning run on his MLB-leading 18th double of the season.
The 25-year-old center fielder extended his hitting streak to five games, including a pair of multihit games earlier in the homestand against the Tigers, and he raised his season batting line to .278/.336/.500 with eight stolen bases while posting six outs above average in center field, the second-highest mark in the Majors behind only Kevin Kiermaier.
Though Buxton has shown power potential in the past -- he hit 16 homers in 140 games in 2017 -- the speedy center fielder isn’t too concerned about following his teammates in adding to the Twins’ prolific power numbers this season.
“I’m too far behind for that,” Buxton said. “Just hit the ball in the gap and run.”