The official MLB Twitter feed did a very mean thing on Monday, tweeting out a gif of Jason Giambi’s walk-off grand slam against the Twins in 2002 in honor of Giambi’s retirement. It was a game we had almost forgotten about, and then the flood of memories came gushing back.
*The Twins trailed 8-3 after Rick Reed was shelled, but they came back to take a 9-8 lead thanks to a six-run sixth. Some stellar relief from Bob Wells, J.C. Romero and Mike Jackson (!) got them to the ninth with that one-run lead intact, but Eddie Guardado gave up a game-tying home run to Bernie Williams with one out.
*Guardado pitched a scoreless 10th, and then the Twins — their bullpen depleted — handed the ball to Jack Cressend. The game probably should have ended sometime during Cressend’s time. After all, he finished the season with a 5.91 ERA. Instead, he pitched three scoreless innings of relief — despite giving up four hits and five walks while striking out nobody — to get the game to the 14th inning. Cressend left the bases loaded in the 11th and 13th, while Giambi was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a double in that latter inning.
*In the Twins’ half of the 14th, RBI singles by Bobby Kielty, Denny Hocking and Jacque Jones looked like they would finally make winners of the Twins, giving them a 12-9 lead.
*However, Mike Trombley had other ideas. Trombley was in his second tour of duty with the Twins and was pretty much out of gas. He was pitching in the third of what would be four consecutive games from May 15-18, which would turn out to be four of the final five appearances of his MLB career (the last would come May 27). In this particular game, Trombley gave up a single to Shane Spencer, a single to Derek Jeter and a walk to Williams before Giambi had a massive blast to right for a walk-off grand slam. The game lasted 5 hours, 45 minutes, and if you were unlucky enough to have watched the bitter ending, you won’t forget it.
*No big deal, though, right? The Twins won the division that year, starting a string of six AL Central titles in nine seasons. Well, yes and no. That year and game started a downward spiral against the Yankees. Minnesota went 0-6 against New York that season and ultimately would go 2-12 in losing four playoff series to the Yankees from 2003-10. Did it all start with that fateful walkoff slam? Maybe not. But it added to the collective weight of the Yankees’ mastery over the Twins.