Playoff baseball, kind of.
That was quite a game. If felt like a playoff game, really. And in a way, it was. A loss would not have eliminated the Twins, but it certainly would've made things a lot tougher.
The Twins batters once again made a bad pitcher look good, as they could get only two hits off Trevor Bauer. The hits, though, were doubles by Mauer and Plouffe! and came in the same inning, giving the Twins a 1-0 lead.
They gave the Twins a 1-0 lead because Tyler Duffey once again pitched really well. This was only his tenth major league start, and yet we've come to look at him as the ace of the staff. He pitched six shutout innings before giving up a two-run homer in the seventh that put the Clevelands ahead 2-1.
Given how little the offense had done to that point, things did not look good for the Twins. But the Indians bullpen came in to pitch the last two innings and the Twins decided to pull out their mirrors and blue smoke. A walk to pinch-hitter Danny Santana (!), a double by Escobar, and an infield single by Dozier tied the game in the eighth, but Joe Mauer hit into a double play to keep the game tied.
No problem. In the ninth, Plouffe! reached on an error and was pinch-run for with Eduardo Nunez. Rosario singled and took second on the throw to third. A wild pitch put the Twins ahead and Hunter's sacrifice fly provided an insurance run.
We would certainly be remiss if we did not mention the stellar job by the Twins' bullpen. Trevor May retired both men he faced. Glen Perkins pitched a perfect eighth. Kevin Jepsen gave up only a two-out bunt single. You can't shut the door much tighter than that.
In the last few innings of the game, Paul Molitor made a lot of decisions. Many of them were decisions of which I was skeptical. In some cases, I went beyond skepticism to outright disagreement. But pretty much every move Molitor made worked, so my skepticism and/or disagreement doesn't mean anything (not that it ever does, really). So, congratulations to Paul Molitor for making all the right moves and helping the Twins to this victory.
Tonight we start the final series of the regular season, coming home to play Kansas City. Ervin Santana, who pitched really well, then didn't, and now is again, goes for the Twins. He'll face the veteran Chris Young, who's having one of the best seasons of his career. He's doing that despite having started the year in the bullpen, being moved to the rotation, going back to the bullpen, and now being back in the rotation again. In the old days, they would've said he was a "swing man". The point, though, is that he's pitched very well in both roles, which has been a big boost for the Royals this season.
As satisfying as the win was (and it was really satisfying, the Twins have not won anything yet. All this game did was pull them within a game of Houston and into a tie with the Angels. There are three games to go. It would be helpful to win all three, but of course, you have to play them one at a time. We've started our season-ending four-game winning streak! We're still on track for 86-76!