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Wild walk-off: Twins tighten grip on Card

August 31, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was yet another show of resilience from the red-hot Twins, who are surging into September after one of the best months in club history. After trailing by a run in the ninth, Max Kepler served as the hero, as he was hit by a pitch with the

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was yet another show of resilience from the red-hot Twins, who are surging into September after one of the best months in club history. After trailing by a run in the ninth, Max Kepler served as the hero, as he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give the Twins a 5-4 walk-off win over the White Sox on Thursday at Target Field. It helped notch the team's third walk-off of the season, and it completed a three-game sweep over Chicago to extend Minnesota's win streak to four games.
Minnesota now has a 1 1/2-game lead over the idle Angels for the second spot in the American League Wild Card race, and it trails the Yankees by one game for the No. 1 spot. The Twins (70-63) now have at least 70 wins by Sept. 1 for the first time since 2010, and they won 20 games in August for the first time since 1967. They went 20-10 despite being sellers at the Trade Deadline, and they ended the month in an unusual fashion with just the second walk-off hit-by-pitch in club history.
"I've had three, and the last one I had against Cleveland was on an error, so they come in all different shapes and forms," Kepler said with a smile about his game-winner. "A walk-off is a walk-off, so I'll take it. I tried to get out of the way, but I would've regretted it if I did get out of the way."

Ehire Adrianza began the rally with a pinch-hit single, and he came around to score the tying run on an RBI single by Eddie Rosario. Three batters later, Kepler was plunked by White Sox right-hander Juan Minaya with the bags full to send Target Field into a frenzy. It was the first walk-off hit-by-pitch by the Twins since Paul Molitor was hit in the bottom of the 10th on May 1, 1996, against Kansas City.
"I don't remember it," Molitor said with a laugh.

Kepler spoiled Alen Hanson's late-inning heroics. Hanson hit a ninth-inning solo shot to break a 3-3 deadlock, as he launched a 1-0 fastball from closer Matt Belisle over the right-field wall. According to Statcast™, Hanson's third homer of the season went an estimated 390 feet with an exit velocity of 100.2 mph. It was Hanson's first home run since July 26 and just the second homer hit off Belisle by any player over the past two months.
"He got a pitch that he could drive, was able to put it out over the right-field wall," Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. "I wish we would have been able to score a few more runs for him. Just wasn't meant to be."

Because of the late-game dramatics, neither starter factored into the decision despite each lasting six frames. Minnesota right-hander Bartolo Colon was charged with three runs on 10 hits while recording a season-best eight strikeouts and no walks. Chicago righty Miguel Gonzalez notched his fifth straight quality start, as he allowed three runs on seven hits with five punchouts and two free passes.
The White Sox struck first with a pair of runs in the second on an RBI single by Rob Brantly and an RBI double via Adam Engel, which marked their first advantage of the series. Yolmer Sanchez drove in another run in the fourth on a base knock. Meanwhile, the Twins scored a pair of runs in the fifth on consecutive doubles by Jorge Polanco and Kepler, while Zack Granite delivered an RBI single in the second.

Double trouble: After trailing for the first time all series, the Twins evened the score at 3 with a trio of doubles in the bottom of the fifth. James Dozier opened the frame with a double into right off Gonzalez, who proceeded to retire the next two batters he faced. That's when Polanco and Kepler delivered back-to-back RBI doubles to erase an early two-run deficit. Minnesota finished with five doubles on the afternoon -- all off Gonzalez -- to bring its August two-bagger tally to 49.

"I wasn't as crisp as last outing," Gonzalez said. "It helped us early in the game they were swinging right away, and then after that, they were pretty patient. That's a good team, they are playing really good."

Rock solid: Granite contributed to a key run early in the absence of Byron Buxton, who was on the bench with a left hand contusion. After the White Sox scored a pair of runs in the top of the second, Eduardo Escobar recorded a one-out triple in the home half. Three batters later, Granite smacked a two-out single into center to halve the deficit, 2-1, at the time. It was Granite's first RBI since he drove in two on July 29.

"I'm not thinking about it, honestly. If something happens, then it's meant to be. If it doesn't, then I'm here all the way with the White Sox." -- Gonzalez, on pitching with the possibility of being traded
"The most important thing is we keep fighting. When we fall behind, we're able to come back and win games, and that's important. The young players gain confidence in those situations, and they know to perform in tight games." -- Colon

Kepler's run-scoring double in the fifth served as his 20th RBI in August, becoming the fifth Twin with at least 20 RBIs this month. It marked the first time in club history that five players have driven in at least 20 runs in a single month. Minnesota had four different players accomplish the feat in May 1964.
The Twins struck out 38 White Sox batters during the series, which is the most punchouts in a three-game set in Twins history.
Escobar tripled high off the right-field wall in the second inning, and it was reviewed to see whether the ball cleared the wall. But after a short review, the call was confirmed by replay, and Escobar remained at third.

White Sox: Chicago will return home for a three-game weekend set with Tampa Bay starting on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez is slated to return from the disabled list after missing a couple weeks with a back strain. Lopez has allowed eight runs on nine hits over 10 1/3 innings in two games this season.
Twins: The Twins remain home to host the Royals in a three-game series that begins on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Dillon Gee (1-1, 3.53 ERA) faces his former team, and struggled last time out, allowing four runs in four innings in a loss to the Blue Jays.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Shane Jackson is a reporter for based in Minneapolis who covered the White Sox on Thursday.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.