Trevor May warmed up as the Twins prepared to bat in the bottom of the eighth, knowing no matter what — ahead, behind or tied — he would pitch the ninth inning of a game the Twins then trailed by two runs. He threw a couple of tosses as he watched Max Kepler lead off the inning by lining a ball into the right field corner.
And right then, he knew.
“After that leadoff double, I was like, ‘We’re going to take the lead,’ ” May said after pitching an eventful yet scoreless ninth to earn his first save of the season by protecting the Twins’ 6-5 victory over Seattle. “It’s fun to make the transition in your head from holding their lead, to maybe a tie game, to having the lead and going in for a save situation. Just a lot of fun.”
Fun is as plentiful as home runs around Target Field these days — Jonathan Schoop and Jason Castro did the honors Tuesday, the Twins’ seventh set of back-to-back homers of the season — but this sort is a little rarer. The homestand-opening victory marked only the second time they have rallied from a seventh-inning deficit, largely because they club most opponents into submission before then. But this seemed like extra fun.
Jorge Polanco followed Kepler’s double with one of his own, simultaneously cutting the deficit to one run and moving himself into the AL batting lead, his 3-for-3 night boosting him to .341. Then Nelson Cruz drew a walk, putting the go-ahead run on base. The Mariners replaced reliever Brandon Brennan with Austin Adams, who induced a fly out by Eddie Rosario, but Polanco tagged up and moved to third — a big play that paid off when Adams threw a wild pitch, allowing Polanco to score the tying run.
“He’s a good ballplayer with good instincts,” manager Rocco Baldelli said of Polanco. “A lot of feel for what he’s doing.”
After Miguel Sano struck out, Marwin Gonzalez came to the plate with one focus: Don’t strike out. Again.
“I wasn’t able to touch a ball all night,” said Gonzalez, who struck out in all three at-bats against Seattle starter Mike Leake, against whom he was 8-for-14 before Tuesday. “I was trying to make contact, put the ball in play. Nothing can happen if you strike out. I was lucky to hit that pitch right down the middle and get the RBI.”
His single scored Cruz and, with Taylor Rogers unavailable because of tightness in his back, May entered a ninth inning with a lead for the first time all season.
“He’s been throwing the ball well. He’s earned that spot,” Baldelli said. “He did a nice job out there, and when he had to execute, he did.”
He made it interesting, however. Mallax Smith led off with a single, and Domingo Santana moved him to second with a hit, too. Up came Edwin Encarnacion, the major leagues’ home run leader, who had crushed a three-run shot six innings earlier. Encarnacion has 16 homers in Target Field, second most of any visitor behind Salvador Perez, so he was more than dangerous.
May worked him to 3-2, then threw a 96-mph fastball on the outside corner. MLB’s StatCast tracker showed it just outside the strike zone. Umpire Mike Estabrook disagreed, ruling it strike three.
“I thought it was right there. [Castro] caught it really well. It was over the plate,” May said. “Usually [hitters are] looking for something up. He was not expecting something down and away.”
After that, it was easy: Daniel Vogelbach popped out and Kyle Seager flew to left, ending the game and earning May a save.