CHICAGO – Jorge Polanco homered for the fourth consecutive game Wednesday, giving him a chance Thursday to put his name alongside Harmon Killebrew’s in the annals of home run hot streaks. But the Twins shortstop would trade all 418 feet of his fourth-inning blast for just a couple of feet more on his dive in the ninth inning.
Polanco barely missed reaching Tim Anderson’s grounder, Avisail Garcia raced home from second base, and the Twins dropped a frustrating 4-3 loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I was close,” grimaced Polanco, who collected two of the Twins’ three hits in the game, and drove in two of their three runs. “If I was playing a few steps over, maybe I’d be able to stop it.”
Nobody has been able to stop his rampage at the plate lately. Polanco whistled a fourth-inning fastball from James Shields 15 rows deep in the right field stands, giving him a home run in each of the first four games of this rare five-game series. It’s the 28th time a Twin has homered in four games in a row. Polanco can tie the team record of five — accomplished by Killebrew three times, by Marty Cordova in 1995, and by Brian Dozier last season — in Thursday’s series finale.
That game will determine who wins the series, an annoying development for the Twins given that they led 3-2 after seven innings thanks to a strong start by Ervin Santana and had a well-rested bullpen. But Taylor Rogers gave up a run for the first time since Aug. 5, surrendering back-to-back doubles to Leury Garcia and Yoan Moncada to tie the score in the eighth, and Trevor Hildenberger gave up a leadoff single to Avisail Garcia in the ninth that Chicago turned into a walkoff victory with a sacrifice bunt and Anderson’s ground ball.
“I got the ground ball I was looking for. It happened to find a hole tonight,” said Hildenberger, who was particularly upset with himself over Garcia’s single on a 3-2 pitch. “It’s a tough loss — Erv did a great job, and we want to win those games, especially when we have a lead.”
Lately, they have been, in part because the Twins offense has been so productive. But Shields and three Chicago relievers held the Twins to three hits. Besides Polanco’s homer, his sixth in this ballpark among his 11 career blasts, he looped an RBI single to left in the sixth to give the Twins a 2-1 lead. Shields then threw a wild pitch that enabled Joe Mauer to score from third, too.
“It’s a tough one to let slip away,” manager Paul Molitor said. “We were kind of fortunate to be in the position we were. We didn’t swing the bats particularly well. Shields wasn’t throwing the ball by anybody, he was using his deception to get outs.”
Santana had his most effective outing since shutting out Cleveland June 25. But he gave up a long home run by Leury Garcia in the sixth inning, three innings after his absent-minded defense helped Chicago score first.
Santana retired the first eight batters he faced, a stretch broken by No. 9 hitter Alan Hanson’s grounder past first that came to rest 30 feet short of the right-field fence. By the time Max Kepler retrieved the ball and rifled it to Polanco, Hanson had decided to stretch the play into a triple.
Polanco’s throw to Eduardo Escobar scooted past the third baseman as Hanson slid into the bag, and because Santana had stood on the mound, believing Hanson would settle for a double, there was nobody backing up the play. The ball rolled 60 feet away, enabling Hanson to scurry home with the game’s first run.
“The ball wasn’t hit very sharply, and kind of died. You can probably anticipate that ball’s not going to carom, and [Kepler could] get to it maybe a hair quicker,” Molitor said. “He misses the first cutoff man, and the second cutoff man tries to rush it to make a play.”