MINNEAPOLIS -- Any hopes that the Rays had of taking some momentum into the All-Star break vanished in extra innings on Sunday.James Dozier crushed a walk-off grand slam off Tampa Bay reliever Matt Andriese in the bottom of the 10th to give the Twins an 11-7 win over the Rays
MINNEAPOLIS -- Any hopes that the Rays had of taking some momentum into the All-Star break vanished in extra innings on Sunday.
James Dozier crushed a walk-off grand slam off Tampa Bay reliever Matt Andriese in the bottom of the 10th to give the Twins an 11-7 win over the Rays at Target Field and end the first half of the season in dramatic fashion.
Minnesota staged a seventh-inning rally, lost its lead, and then delivered an eighth-inning rally, with a pair of bench-clearing altercations adding to the drama. Tampa Bay answered back each time to tie the game before Dozier delivered the game-winning blast.
"We continue to find ways to come back, fight and claw, get back in ballgames," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "You hate that we gave the lead up, and the way that we did. Some walks and then a costly play. You got to like the way we continue to have some good at-bats and get big hit after big hit. We just came up short. Their hit was a little bigger there at the end."
Tampa Bay took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning and was in good shape to salvage a series split, but will now head into the All-Star break having been dealt a 3-1 series loss.
The Rays tied a season high by using nine pitchers in the game. Cash said that if the Rays would have needed to make another pitching change, outfielder Carlos Gomez would have thrown.
Eddie Rosario laced an RBI single to score one run in the seventh inning, and Dozier followed with a two-run single, and then advanced to third on a throwing error to tie the game at 4-4. That forced Cash to go to the bullpen for the fifth time of the afternoon.
Diego Castillo came on to try to get the Rays out of the inning, but on the third pitch he threw Eduardo Escobar, he was called for a balk, and Dozier scored to give the Twins the lead.
The next pitch Castillo threw Escobar was low and inside, and after he stepped out of the box, Escobar began arguing back and forth with Rays third baseman Daniel Robertson, and benches eventually cleared.
"When Castillo went down and low on [Escobar's] ankles, he stared at him again," Robertson said. "There was already a lot of chatter going on as far as the balk that happened right before that. Everyone was yelling at each other. He was looking back up at our pitcher again, and I just told him, 'Hey, quit staring at our pitcher. Nobody's trying to hit you; just get back in the box and hit.' That's about it, man. Then he kind of came back at me."
Order was eventually restored, and Castillo struck out Escobar to end the inning. But as he was headed back out to the field, Escobar and Robertson began jawing again, and benches cleared once more.
"I think it got escalated because [the Twins] seemed to be yelling at [Castillo]," Cash said. "We're going to defend our pitcher. They're going to defend their hitter. Saying that, I've got the utmost respect for Paul Molitor, his staff and those players. They played a really good series against us, got big hit after big hit. This series wasn't defined on [the altercations]. It was defined by a lot of good baseball and a lot of offense."
Rays catcher Jesus Sucre believed that the series of kerfuffles started because Twins reliever Thomas Pressly was claiming that the Rays were intentionally trying to hit Escobar.
"[Pressly] was the one that started it," Sucre said. "He was like, 'Hey, he's trying to hit him.' I was like, 'Hey, calm down, man. Shut up.'"
Escobar was ejected, and the Rays answered right back in the eighth when Sucre clubbed a two-run double to give Tampa Bay a 6-5 lead in the top of the eight.
But the Twins loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half of the inning, and Cash turned to Sergio Romo to try to escape the jam. Romo struck out Mitch Garver, but then walked Joe Mauer on four pitches to drive home the tying run for the Twins. One batter later, Rosario crushed a fastball up the middle to plate Max Kepler to give the Twins a 7-6 lead.
Minnesota came one out away from finishing off the game without having to bat in the bottom half of the ninth. But Robertson singled to lead off the inning, stole second base and then scored on a Joey Wendle single that knotted the game up once again.
"We've done such a good job of getting leads and our pitchers have held them there, and we've made plays behind them. We didn't necessarily do that as well as we'd like today, but I thought the at-bats and the big hits from a bunch of different people, getting on base and then the RBIs was something you can take into the break," Cash said.
HE SAID IT
"I wanna start off first and foremost by saying Escobar is a good dude, man. We talk all the time at third base. The guy likes Fogo de Chao, I like Fogo de Chao. So I wanna start off by saying that." -- Robertson, on the altercations with Escobar
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Rosario delivered an RBI single in the eighth to plate Kepler and give the Twins a 7-6 lead. Minnesota thought it had gotten an insurance run out of Rosario's hit, too. Jake Cave came running home behind Kepler and was called out on Kevin Kiermaier's throw home in a bang-bang play at the plate. The Twins challenged that Cave slid in safely, but the call was upheld after a brief replay review.
When the Rays return from the All-Star break, they will begin a three-game home series with the Marlins on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Nathan Eovaldi will got the nod in the series opener for Tampa Bay, hoping to bounce back from his last outing, when the Twins hammered him for eight runs over 2 2/3 innings on July 13. Dan Straily will start for the Marlins.
Jarrid Denney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.