The Twins turned a triple play for the 13th time in team history. They scored a run on catcher’s interference. They slugged five home runs, tying the 1977 Red Sox as the only teams to hit five homers at least eight times in a season.
But the greatest achievement of their 8-6 victory over the Yankees on Monday might have come out of (left-) center field. That’s where the bullpens are. And Twins relievers, battling ineffectiveness of late, got the final 15 outs to hold off the Bronx Bombers before an announced crowd of 34,627.
Winning kept the Twins three games ahead of Cleveland, which beat Toronto, in the American League Central.
“I think we can point to our bullpen as doing beyond a fantastic job tonight,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They brought us where we needed to be. We put some runs on the board. Being able to go out there and throw five innings giving up one run is exactly what we needed. It was a high-caliber effort by everybody involved.”
That group included Lewis Thorpe, the Australian lefthander just recalled Monday and making his second major league appearance. He gave up one run over 2⅔ innings and was rewarded with his first major league victory.
The bullpen was needed early because the Yankees kept coming back, getting home runs from Gio Urshela, Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu off starter Martin Perez after falling behind 2-0, 5-2 and 7-3.
Baldelli had Tyler Duffey relieve Perez in the fifth, and the righthander pitched a scoreless inning. Thorpe entered in the sixth and gave up three hits as New York cut the lead to 7-6, but he settled in from there. Ryne Harper got the final out of the eighth inning, and Taylor Rogers pitched around two one-out singles in the ninth for his 15th save.
“Thorpe, for him to make his first relief appearance in the major leagues and go about it the way that he did, I know he started off a little shaky, and that’s totally natural,” catcher Mitch Garver said.
Pitching coach Wes Johnson visited Thorpe after the Yankees’ third hit off him put runners on first and second and one out in the sixth inning. When Thorpe then got slugger Aaron Judge to ground into an inning-ending double play, he could not hold his emotions in check.
“Unbelievable,” Thorpe said. “I may have chucked in a couple swear words. But that’s my culture. I apologize for that. In the moment you can’t help yourself, so you just get it going and scream it and it pumps yourself up.”
The Twins couldn’t hide their emotions in the first inning, either, after Perez walked the first two batters to bring up Edwin Encarnacion — whose 16 home runs at Target Field are second most among visitors — to the plate.
Perez and Encarnacion dueled for nine pitches before Encarnacion hit a changeup toward third base. Luis Arraez grabbed the ball and stepped on the bag, then threw to Jonathan Schoop at second to force out Judge. Schoop unleased a rocket to first baseman Miguel Sano to retire Encarnacion and finish off the Twins’ first triple play since June 1, 2017, and the first in Target Field history.
“Right before the ground ball was hit to me, Jonathan and I talked to each other,” Arraez said, “and I told him that if they hit it over here, I was going to step on third and throw the ball to him. That’s exactly how it happened.”
The Twins took it from there, getting back-to-back homers from Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz off CC Sabathia in the first. They scored three times in the third inning on a bases-loaded catcher’s interference call on Gary Sanchez and two RBI grounders.
Max Kepler led off the fourth with his 25th homer, and Garver hit the first of his two home runs three batters later.
“It’s a lot of home runs by everybody,” Garver said. “It was a fun night.”