It had the makings of an I-was-there sort of finish, a comeback that fans talk about all season long, the sort that turns a terrific season into a magical one.
And then it slipped away.
Byron Buxton blasted a game-tying home run into the bullpens in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday, completing the Twins’ comeback from a five-run deficit. But three errors in the 10th inning allowed Seattle to score three unearned runs, and the Twins fell to the Mariners, 9-6.
“We’ve been good defensively. But what we saw tonight is definitely going to happen,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after the Twins lost in extra innings for the first time this year. “We’re going to see several games like this over the course of the season.”
Well, hopefully not exactly like this. The Twins hadn’t committed five errors in a game in a quarter-century, since June 4, 1994, when they overcame five miscues to beat Detroit anyway, 21-7.
The comeback was worth remembering, though. The Twins were frustrated all night, first by an ex-teammate, then by their defense, and they trailed 6-1 in the eighth, their lone run coming on a Marwin Gonzalez homer.
But Max Kepler homered in the eighth inning, and four of the next five Twins singled, cutting the deficit to 6-4. And in the ninth, after Miguel Sano opened the inning against Anthony Bass with a single, Buxton turned on a low-and-outside slider and rocketed it 432 feet, electrifying what remained of a crowd of 25,909.
It only tied the score, however, and things got ugly from there. Dee Gordon led off the 10th with a ground-rule double off Tyler Duffey. After a walk and a sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position, Mallex Smith hit a hard grounder to first baseman C.J. Cron, who threw home.
But the ball popped out of Mitch Garver’s glove as he got into position to make a tag, and Gordon scored the tiebreaking run.
“The throw was probably a decent throw. Mitch had to reach [up] for it a little bit. Obviously the ball just popped out,” Baldelli said.
“Mitch is going to catch the ball, I’d bet, maybe 98 times out of a 100. From where I was standing, I thought he had a good opportunity to get him out at the plate. If we execute, we’re probably able to get him.”
Two batters later, Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-out grounder to Miguel Sano, who bobbled the ball, then threw it past Cron, allowing two more runs to score.
Tommy Milone, who went 12-11 with Minnesota from 2014-16 and was making his first Target Field appearance since then, retired 18 of the first 20 batters he faced.
“He used both sides of the plate well. He forced our guys to pick sides of the plate because he commanded both sides,” Baldelli said. “He also had a good changeup tonight, which is sometimes an equalizer especially if you’re facing righthanded hitters.”
Jose Berrios’ course through the Mariners’ lineup was a lot bumpier — he allowed a hit in six of the seven innings he appeared in — but had a similar bottom line: Only one serious mistake, which wound up in the seats. Daniel Vogelbach was the culprit, driving a changeup from Berrios toward the flagpoles in right.
Once Berrios departed, the Mariners busted out, scoring five runs in the eighth off Trevor May and Blake Parker, the latter surrendering rookie Shed Long’s first career home run, a three-run blast.
“I thought [Parker] threw the ball very well. If you look what he did essentially all the other pitches he threw, they were exactly what he was trying to do,” Baldelli said. “If he throws the ball in general the way he did in this appearance, he’s going to be OK.”