Two runners thrown out at the plate and 17 more left on base. The lack of another clutch hit, another stride around the bases or perhaps another arm in the bullpen cost the Twins their shot at a series-winning victory over the Rays. It also cost them about three hours of extra baseball.
Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison smacked back-to-back home runs off Hector Santiago — the Twins’ eighth pitcher of the game, a volunteer who threw 101 pitches two nights earlier — and the Rays won the longest game ever played in the state of Minnesota on Sunday, 8-6 in 15 innings.
The long home runs, which came on Santiago’s second and third pitches of the inning, led to the end of a game full of missed opportunities by both teams, a game in which both team’s closers surrendered leads. And at 6 hours, 26 minutes, it eclipsed a 6:17 game on Aug. 31, 1993, a 5-4, 22-inning victory over Cleveland in the Metrodome, as the longest home game in Twins franchise history. It’s also the second-longest game anywhere in franchise history.
“I want to thank the fans who hung around, trying to push us through there,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the 1,500 or so of the original crowd of 28,951 who stayed all 15 innings. “I’m proud of the way we competed for six hours.”
That seventh hour, though, undid the first six. As the Twins emptied their bullpen in the 15th inning, with Tyler Duffey taking the ball despite throwing 30 pitches Saturday, Santiago told Molitor he believed he could throw an inning, maybe two. “I just wanted to do my part,” Santiago said, and the fact that he gave up two home runs had little to do with any weariness.
“My thing was to go out and locate pitches, and I did, for the most part,” Santiago said. “The pitch to Longo, he’s a good low-ball hitter, he barreled it up. If I had to throw it again, I would, same pitch. And Morrison, the ball flopped back over the plate and he hit it out.”
That’s the sort of big hit the Twins felt like they were lacking all weekend. Though they did receive a couple of timely hits and big performances Sunday.
Joe Mauer reached base seven times, including a seventh-inning home run that tied the score at 3-3. Brian Dozier broke an eighth-inning tie for the second day in a row, and Robbie Grossman tied the score again in the 14th inning. Then again, the Twins had the winning run on third base with one out in both the 11th and 14th innings, only to come up empty both times. Their 17 runners left on base were their most since 2010.
“We couldn’t get a break that way,” Molitor said. “There are probably guys thinking about some of the things that happened, opportunities we had, but it won’t linger. This game won’t allow you to do that.”
The Twins batted .206 (7-for-34) over the three-game series with runners in scoring position, including 3-for-13 Sunday. It appeared that Dozier’s eighth-inning single would be the decisive hit, especially when Jorge Polanco followed with a sacrifice fly for a 5-3 lead. But the Rays defense kept the Twins from pulling away — center fielder Kevin Kiermaier robbed Polanco of an extra-base hit, and Dozier then was thrown out trying to score on a two-out single by Mauer.
In came Brandon Kintzler, who had converted 13 of 14 save chances this year. Not this time, though. Corey Dickerson ended an 11-pitch at-bat by smacking a one-out single. Two batters later, Longoria drove him in with a two-out double on the ninth pitch he saw from Kintzler.
After an intentional walk to Morrison, Steven Souza singled to right on Kintzler’s 34th pitch, and Longoria got his foot on the plate just ahead of Jason Castro’s tag for the tying run.