MINNEAPOLIS -- What the Indians saw Sunday, Aug. 11, at Target Field is what they’re likely to see the rest of the season: A Twins team that just won’t go away, even when they seem down and almost out. The Twins, from the first-base dugout, saw the same of the Indians.
The Twins have 44 games left — including six more head-to-head matchups with Cleveland — and if this weekend was any indication, the American League Central Division race figures to be a fight to the finish.
The Indians pulled away in the 10th inning with a Carlos Santana grand slam off trusted reliever Taylor Rogers for a 7-3 win, but not before the Twins had clawed their way back in the bottom of the ninth, refusing to go easily. With the Indians winning three of four games in the series, the teams are tied atop the division.
“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,” Twins first baseman C.J. Cron said. “So they got us at home. We’ve 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.”
The Twins (71-47) faced the unenviable task of trailing by two runs heading into the ninth and facing all-star closer Brad Hand, but they mounted a rally. Eddie Rosario doubled, Luis Arraez drove Rosario in for the second time in the game and after a 10-pitch at-bat, Cron came through with a single.
That brought Marwin Gonzalez to the plate. After fouling off four pitches, he smacked a double to left field, scoring Arraez. But instead of settling for runners on second and third with just one out, third-base coach Tony Diaz waved home pinch-runner Ehire Adrianza. Adrianza was thrown out by more than a few feet for the second out of the inning.
It was a chance Diaz said he would take “any day.”
“I thought (Adrianza) had a really nice read,” Diaz said. “He was almost at second when the ball went over (left fielder Tyler Naquin’s) head and then, winning run, pushing the envelope a little bit. Two perfect throws required.”
The play loomed large after Jonathan Schoop couldn’t bring home Gonzalez and after Rogers, pitching after throwing two innings the night before, ran into trouble in the 10th. He gave up a single down the first-base line, a walk and a well-executed bunt before Santana’s home run quieted the announced sellout crowd of 37,849.
“I just wasn’t getting ahead,” Rogers said. “It felt good at the start, then felt like there was a cheap hit and it kind of unraveled after that.”
Before the ninth, the Twins had been trailing all day as Jose Berrios surrendered two runs in the first inning — one on a Greg Allen solo shot — and one more in the third. But Berrios settled in, at one point sending down 11 consecutive Indians batters.
He exited after giving up three runs in six-plus innings, but while the lead was always within reach during the earlier innings, the Twins didn’t do much against Indians starter Aaron Civale, and their offense was mostly quieted until the ninth inning.
“We had multiple great at-bats in that ninth inning. We’re one bad throw or on the relay, even a half-missed play and we win the game,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “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.”