It could be because of the long-awaited offensive eruption. It could be because of manager Paul Molitor’s speech Thursday. It could be because of the in-progress dominoes tournament in the clubhouse that has seemed to energize players.
Whatever the reason might be, the Twins seem to have rediscovered their groove. And Eddie Rosario is leading the way.
Sunday, Rosario had perhaps the best game of his major league career. He made the Twins a 7-5 winner over the Indians with his third home run of the game, a walkoff, two-run shot off Cody Allen in the ninth inning at Target Field.
Rosario batted .467 in the series with four home runs, eight RBI and four walks, two intentional. The Twins scored 29 runs over four games vs. Cleveland, winning the final three to cut their deficit in the AL Central to 3½ games behind the Indians.
“It’s really important,” Rosario said. “They’re a good team. Every day they have a different [quality] pitcher. These three games, we proved the Twins belong here. It’s a long season. It’s a good experience for the team to win games.”
After losing six of seven, Molitor addressed the team before the series opener Thursday … and then the Twins promptly fell behind 8-0. They rallied to tie the score before losing 9-8, but that’s when Molitor felt his team began to respond.
“What we did in the first game it might have angered some people that we didn’t finish it,” Molitor said, “but I think everyone felt pretty good about the fact that we were coming out of a little bit of a funk, that we could score runs and get in their bullpen. But I don’t know exactly if it is tangible or not, but it is a pretty confident group right now. Even with losing as many as we have had.”
Molitor is not sure how much a speech can affect a team. And there were jokes that the dominoes tournament, which livened up the clubhouse before Saturday’s game, brought the team together.
“We’re 2-0,” Brian Dozier said of his dominoes team. “One more and we go to the championship.”
It just could be that they have remembered how to win games.
They led 3-0 through two innings Sunday, starting the scoring with Rosario's first home run. But after four perfect innings from Kyle Gibson, Edwin Encarnacion led off the fifth with a homer to left.
In the sixth, Gibson left after 99 pitches with two out and a runner on second. Ryan Pressly issued a four-pitch walk to Jose Ramirez, then saw his first pitch to Encarnacion — a 97-mile-per-hour fastball — blasted an estimated 430 feet into the third deck in left, a three-run homer that gave the Indians a 4-3 lead. Encarnacion’s 15 homers at Target Field are the most of any opponent.
Dozier and Rosario hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh to reclaim the lead at 5-4. But Cleveland’s Michael Brantley ended an 0-for-16 skid with a tying homer off Addison Reed in the eighth.
Dozier led off the ninth by drawing a nine-pitch walk off Allen. With a 2-1 count to Rosario, the All-Star closer fired a 94 mph fastball that was up and away. Rosario launched it 410 feet into the seats in center field, giving him his second three-homer game in less than a year.
It was the Twins’ third walkoff victory of the season — and quite a way to end a series with their division rival.
How long the Twins can stay in this groove is up to them.
“We have to keep it going, you know,” Molitor said. “We can’t afford [to lose] those six out of seven and going the wrong way. Can’t afford to do that too many more times.”