Resilient Twins fall to Dodgers in extra-innings thriller

May 16th, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- If nothing else, these Twins just seem to have that much more fight in them than recent iterations of this team -- but that made it all the more frustrating when a game defined by inches and the slightest of margins just broke the wrong way for them, several times.

Facing one of the Goliaths of baseball in a hostile road environment at Dodger Stadium on Monday night, the Twins erased late deficits in the eighth and ninth innings with two of the biggest hits of their season, but they just couldn’t finish the job in a marathon thriller, as Jorge López ceded a bases-loaded walk to Trayce Thompson in the bottom of the 12th to hand the Dodgers a 9-8 victory.

“That’s a tough game to go through, to battle through, to compete in and then lose,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Yeah, those games are difficult. There are a lot of things that we can look to and be pleased about when you play like that, because I thought our guys played, overall, well. I do. But tough to swallow.”

’s three-run blast in the eighth off Dodgers reliever Yency Almonte continued his impactful return from the Minors and erased a 6-3 deficit. After the Dodgers took the lead,  answered in the ninth with a clutch RBI double off closer Evan Phillips at 115.1 mph, the second-hardest batted ball of his career, according to Statcast.

But the loss was tough to swallow for Baldelli because, while he directed much of the blame on his club’s inability to find another clutch hit, he also felt the Twins had their agency taken away at two of the most defining points in the game.

Immediately following Larnach’s blast, Griffin Jax yielded a pair of two-out doubles in the bottom of the frame to give the lead back to the Dodgers -- except that replays showed David Peralta’s go-ahead RBI double down the line could have easily been ruled foul, on a play that isn’t reviewable, by rule.

“I’m not going to sit here and say that’s the only play in the game that mattered, but when the play that leads to them getting a late run is just foul at every point, basically, along the way after the first bounce -- it’s a big reason why we lost the game, because they were awarded a double on a ball that was not close to being fair,” Baldelli said.

And the Twins should have done more damage against reliever Phil Bickford in the 10th inning, when he issued a bases-loaded walk to Christian Vázquez to plate the go-ahead run with none out. After a Donovan Solano strikeout, Alex Kirilloff -- the club’s hottest hitter -- struck out on three pitches, of which two were called strikes that looked to be well outside the zone. A deep flyout ended the threat with only one run across.

But Baldelli and the Twins didn’t want the narrative of the game to be defined by those moments, because they also know they should have done more in that spot -- and others.

Jhoan Duran was one strike away from blowing away J.D. Martinez in the bottom of the 10th, but he hung a breaking ball and Martinez hit a game-tying single. And in the bottom of the 12th, when the Twins intentionally walked the red-hot Max Muncy to load the bases for Thompson, who didn’t have a hit since April 17, Jorge López should have been able to throw his sinker for one more strike after getting ahead, 1-2.

“It looks like it's right in the middle,” López said. “And at the end, it just took off. I mean, it's part of my strength, part of being that good.”

But after the Twins went 0-4 against these Dodgers last season and outscored by 22 runs (and 2-15 against the Dodgers, Astros and Yankees), this game -- and its drama -- served as further evidence of a change in this team’s ability to compete against these opponents.

If that hadn’t already been made clear by the series win against the Astros in April, the nine-run first inning in the Bronx or even the Twins’ first season series victory over the Yankees since 2001, then this epic battle should have driven that home.

“It was a great game on both sides,” Vázquez said. “It was awesome to see the guys grind those runs. … It was a fun game. It’s a great crowd, and electric. I think you need that to play at this level.”