The assumption when the fourth and fifth-place teams in the AL Central square off in the finale of a four-game set, and drag themselves, the paid attendants, the stadium staff and broadcast crews through a four-hour, 46-minute, 24-run war, that this is awful, low-quality baseball; a joyless slog.
Let’s operate under a different assumption, that this was actually one of the great battles of our modern times, that with both teams shoving out mostly helpless pitching, this game became a test of the limits of what each offense could force into reality with its will and skill. Surely a dinger-fest can have just as much drama as a pitcher’s duel, is all I’m saying.
1. When Tim Anderson ripped the decisive blow, a rippling two-run double deep into the left field corner in the top of the 12th inning, staking the Sox to a 13-11 lead, Hawk’s voice lacked its usual punch. Three innings earlier, when Avisail Garcia punched a bases-loaded two-run single back up the middle to put the Sox ahead 11-10, he called it out in his typical trumpeting call, but after David Robertson‘s seventh blown save, he was exhausted. Maybe everyone was.
2. As is always the case, taking an extra-inning lead on the road is a brief moment of jubilation before the grim calculus of determining how to protect it in the bottom of the inning begins to loom over the affair. Juan Minaya, pitching in the third major league game of his career, and entering his second inning of work, turned out to be not the correct roll of the dice. He threw one strike combined to the first two Twins hitters of the 12th, and his wildness pushed the precarious situation of Tommy Kahnle in a save situation to Tommy Kahnle in a save situation with the tying run already on base.
After getting a lineout right back to him from Trevor Plouffe, Kahnle won an eight-pitch war and struck out Max Kepler, but was not truly content to get three quick outs. He bounced a wild pitch to put both runners in scoring position, before making it irrelevant and walking Eduardo Escobar to load the bases. To end the drama, Kahnle went back to his old standard, getting hitters to rip balls back at his person. Eddie Rosario swung on the first pitch and lined a ball that caromed off Kahnle’s body, and tumbled weakly in the infield grass on the left side. Todd Frazier raced to the rescue, barehanding the ball and firing to first for the final out, where Jose Abreu wearily raised his arms above his head in triumph afterward.
3. It would be easy to forgive Abreu for being a little tired, as he had carried the Sox on his back for most of the game. He drove in seven of their first eight runs on the day, most of them coming on two massive three-run shots to the second deck in left at Target Field. He blasted a hanging curve from Twins starter Andrew Albers in the first, pinged another Albers curve on a 3-2 count for a single to right to score a run in the fifth and obliterated a Taylor Rogers hanger for a tape-measure blast in the seventh. Abreu is up 22 home runs on the season, and is within a stone’s throw of last year’s rate stats with his current .293/.346/.476 line. Making his recovery by crushing Twins pitching and September call-ups might be like returning time and again to a broken ATM, but the money spends the same.
4. The Sox started Anthony Ranaudo in this game, and despite his improbable no-hit bid against the Cubs in his debut, is about as ineffective as you will ever see a major league pitcher be while receiving repeated opportunities to start. After a 1-2-3 first, Ranaudo was tantalizingly close to escaping a bases loaded, no outs jam in the second, when it was revealed that all his efforts were just dramatic set up for the climax of Byron Buxton‘s coming out party, as he hammered a mammoth grand slam to near dead-center to tie the game at 4-4. Buxton homered three times in the four-game set, but Brian Dozier went deep in every game, including leading off the fourth against Ranaudo.
At least those guys were hot, backup catcher John Ryan Murphy just stepped off the bench and hammered a fastball out to left in the fifth, but it was only after Buxton followed that by banging a double that Ranaudo got pulled with two outs in the fifth.
A Dozier RBI double to score Buxton off the ever-helpful Matt Albers ended Ranaudo’s day with nine earned runs and 11 hits in 4.2 innings of work. His ERA is 10.13.
5. The Sox entered the seventh facing a 9-5 deficit, which they began trimming when Abreu launched his second blast, but was pushed back to 10-8 when Miguel Sano launched a moonshot to lead off the seventh against Albers; still in the game after 1.1 innings.
Garcia capped off the comeback in regulation, leading off the eighth with a double and scoring on an Adam Eaton groundout, and registered the final blow when the Twins’ Brandon Kintzler couldn’t close down the ninth. Kinztler walked Melky Cabrera and Justin Morneau, with a single to Frazier stacked in the middle. Garcia’s single up the middle put the Sox up 11-10 briefly, before Robertson gave up a leadoff walk to Sano and had Kurt Suzuki blast a high fastball to the wall in left-center to tie things back up and force extra innings.
Team Record: 65-71
Next game is Monday vs. Detroit at 3:10pm CT on CSN
Lead Image Credit: Jordan Johnson // USA Today Sports Images