At least the Twins did the courtesy of keeping the announced 21,186 announced fans at Target Field entertained until the very end.
In a high-scoring, back-and-forth game, the Twins had a chance to force extra innings with two on base and the tying run up to bat in Max Kepler. But sort of like this Twins season in general, some exciting moments still led to ultimate disappointment.
The Twins lost 10-7 Thursday in their final home game of the season. They'll end the year in Kansas City this weekend with a losing record and without a postseason experience. But the fans were still generous with their ovations, such as when rookie starter Joe Ryan came out in the fifth inning having allowed six hits and six runs, including two home runs.
Byron Buxton — who missed a big chunk of the season because of a broken hand and other injuries — also collected some cheers for a two-homer, one-double night.
"I bet he's wishing there was more baseball to be played this year," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "… For all of us who are watching him play, we're thinking the same thing. He had it all going for a period of time this year. He's got it all going again."
The Twins took an early lead from Buxton's third-pitch home run in the first inning. Home runs were popular for both teams. Buxton hit another in the seventh, Josh Donaldson belted a three-run homer in the third and Brent Rooker had a solo shot in the fourth. Detroit's Niko Goodrum hit back-to-back home runs in the third and fourth innings off Ryan before Jonathan Schoop capped the Tigers scoring with his solo blast in the ninth.
The Twins held a 7-6 lead until the eighth inning, when reliever Ralph Garza Jr. stepped onto the mound and walked his first two batters before letting the tying run come in on Harold Castro's RBI double. Caleb Thielbar relieved Garza, but Dustin Garneau's sacrifice fly and Willi Castro's RBI single to reclaim the lead and ultimately take the game.
Joe Ryan returned to the mound Thursday after traveling back from his native San Francisco while on family medical/bereavement leave. And while he had a chance to throw a full bullpen when he was on the West Coast, his outing was not as commanding as usual.
He left Thursday's game after 4⅔ innings, allowing six runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Entering the game, he was 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA.
"People are doing good. Family is good," Ryan said. "I'm very grateful I was able to go back there and spend some time with them."
Baldelli said Ryan will retain his rookie status for next season, as he only made his major league debut for the Twins after returning from the Summer Olympics.
Baldelli threw some praise at the bullpen Thursday, specifically calling out Jorge Alcala, Alexander Colome and Thielbar for their consistency late in the season. Alcala has a 1.10 ERA through his 16⅓ innings in the past 15 games. Colome stands at a 3.52 ERA through 15⅓ innings in the same span; Thielbar's ERA is 2.25 in 16 innings.
Baldelli said Alcala specifically has improved against lefthanded hitters and has become more comfortable using off-speed pitches against them instead of only his fastball.
"It's ultimately each individual guy that went out there to the mound and found ways to improve what they were doing as the season went on," Baldelli said. "...These guys are certainly better versions of themselves right now, and we want to hold on to that."