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Twins rally in 9th, fall into 1st-place tie in extras

@dohyoungpark
August 11, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins landed what could have been a knockout blow against Cleveland’s best reliever, but saw a potential walk-off win thwarted by a perfect relay to home plate in the 9th. One inning later, Cleveland carried that swing in momentum by punching back against Minnesota’s best, with Carlos

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins landed what could have been a knockout blow against Cleveland’s best reliever, but saw a potential walk-off win thwarted by a perfect relay to home plate in the 9th.

One inning later, Cleveland carried that swing in momentum by punching back against Minnesota’s best, with Carlos Santana’s 10th-inning grand slam off Taylor Rogers sending the Twins to a 7-3 loss Sunday at Target Field that sealed a defeat in the four-game series and once again knotted the division rivals in a tie for first place in the American League Central.

Box score

“We didn’t obviously pull out the games, but it was ultra-competitive, and that was kind of like a playoff atmosphere between two good teams,” first baseman C.J. Cron said. “So they got us at home. We got them at their place. So down to the wire, it’s going to be fun, and these are the kinds of things that you have to enjoy as a player and know that we have big games ahead, and that’s really all you can ask for.”

With the Twins trailing, 3-2, and one run already in against Indians closer Brad Hand in the ninth inning, Marwin Gonzalez clubbed a double to the left-field wall with one out. Luis Arraez easily scored the tying run, but trail runner Ehire Adrianza was also waved home by third-base coach Tony Diaz and was thrown out on a relay by left fielder Tyler Naquin and shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Cleveland catcher Kevin Plawecki already had the ball in his mitt by the time Adrianza began his slide into home plate, but the Twins felt that was more a testament to the perfect throws from both Naquin and Lindor than any notion of a bad decision on Diaz’s part.

“You have to make that call early -- earlier than you probably want to have to make that call -- but Tony made a call on it,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Obviously, we’re going to back his calls and his instincts out there as our third-base coach, and again, they made a perfect relay, and we gave ourselves a chance to win the game if they don’t make that play.”

According to Statcast, Naquin’s throw from the left-field warning track was measured at 91.9 mph, and Lindor’s seamless exchange on the cutoff took only 0.6 seconds before he, too, fired a well-placed throw home at 90.6 mph.

“Then you've got to tip your cap,” Diaz said. “Anything deviating from that, we win. It's how it goes.”

“When I let it go, I was pretty confident we had him,” Naquin said. “[Lindor], he puts it in a good spot 99 percent of the time. Once it left my hand, I felt pretty confident about it.”

Instead of a tie game with men on second and third with one out, the Twins had the winning run on second with two outs, and Jonathan Schoop grounded out to send the game to extra innings, where the Indians plated four before recording their first out.

“Obviously, hindsight is 20/20,” Diaz said. “But I'll take that shot any day.”

To get to that point, the Twins had rallied off Hand for the second time in the series after they were held silent by Cleveland starter Aaron Civale and the bullpen for most of the game. Eddie Rosario led off the ninth with a double before Arraez drove him in with a single, his second hit and RBI of the game.

Cron capped a 10-pitch at-bat with a solid single, setting up the opportunity for Gonzalez, who felt that he didn’t make perfect contact, but still lined a fastball over Naquin’s head in left field after fouling off four straight offerings from Hand.

“We had multiple great at-bats in that ninth inning,” Baldelli said. “We're one bad throw on the relay -- even a half missed play -- and we win the game. Multiple great at-bats, multiple hard-hit balls against a good closer, against a guy who is excellent at what he does, too. The fight is there and it's not going anywhere.”

With six head-to-head games left to go between the Twins and Indians, the division rivals are right back where they started when they first met on March 28: Tied atop the standings.

The Twins still control their own destiny -- with the easiest remaining schedule among contenders, to boot -- and are eager to regroup during Monday’s off-day and play better baseball on their upcoming road trip.

“We also started the year off where we were even with Cleveland and we got to a point where we were up,” said Jake Odorizzi, who urged fans not to worry after Saturday’s game. “It’s the same as Opening Day all over again. We got there one time, might as well continue to do it again.”

"It's a long season,” Gonzalez echoed. “Forty-four games is a lot of time to do some damage. It's like Opening Day. We're tied."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.