The game, and the Showdown Series, came down to the closers on Sunday.
One was bad. One was worse.
After the Twins scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth off All-Star closer Brad Hand to tie the game and force extra innings, Carlos Santana launched a grand slam off Taylor Rogers in the 10th to lift the Indians to a 7-3 win and end the four-game series in crushing fashion.
Santana’s slam silenced an announced crowd of 37,849 who shuffled silently out of Target Field after the Twins went down in order in the bottom of the 10th. Cleveland won three of four games in the series and is tied, once again, with the Twins for first place in the American League Central.
The Indians are 42-17 since June 2, and the Twins are one of only two teams to hand the Indians consecutive defeats during that run — when they won the first two games of a three-game series at Cleveland after the All-Star break. The juggernaut could not be stopped this weekend.
“We didn’t obviously pull out the games, but it was ultracompetitive, and that was kind of like a playoff atmosphere between two good teams,” 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.”
Down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Cron played a role in the Twins’ uprising against the Chaska-born Hand. Eddie Rosario led off with a double down the right field line. Luis Arraez, young but unflappable, laced a single to center, scoring Rosario.
Cron followed with the at-bat of the day, fouling off five pitches during a 10-pitch battle with Hand before lining a single to left to put runners on first and second. Cron was replaced by pinch runner Ehire Adrianza.
Marwin Gonzalez followed with a rocket over Tyler Naquin in left for a double. Arraez scored from second, and Adrianza was waved home by third base coach Tony Diaz. Francisco Lindor’s relay throw arrived in time to get Adrianza at the plate by at least a dozen feet. It was a gutsy call by Diaz that went the wrong way.
Cleveland’s relay was perfect. Naquin’s throw to Lindor was 91.9 miles per hour and traveled 161 feet. Lindor got rid of the ball in sixth-tenths of a second and it traveled 166 feet at 90.6 mph.
Diaz said he’d take that chance any day.
“Then you’ve got to tip your cap,” Diaz said. “Anything deviating from that, we win. It’s how it goes.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was fine with the decision.
“We’re going to back his calls and his instincts out there as our third base coach,” Baldelli said. “And again, they made a perfect relay, and we gave ourselves a chance to win the game if they don’t make that play.”
Jonathan Schoop grounded out to end the inning. Rogers, who pitched two innings on Saturday, came out for the 10th in a non-save situation. Things went sideways quickly.
Kevin Plawecki led off with a single, Lindor walked and Greg Allen loaded the bases when his bunt attempt got by Rogers, who tripped while going for it, for an infield hit.
That brought Santana to the plate, and Rogers’ 2-1 pitch to him was battered into the bullpens in left-center field.
“I just wasn’t getting ahead,” said Rogers, who has a 7.81 ERA when pitching with no days rest and 13.50 when pitching the day after a two-inning outing. “It felt good at the start, then felt like there was a cheap hit and it kind of unraveled after that.”