SEATTLE - An ending that insane deserves a new verb to describe it. And Paul Molitor was ready.
“We got out of some jams tonight. We kind of Houdini’d our way out of a couple of those innings, particularly there in the ninth,” the Twins manager said of his team’s bizarre 6-5 victory. “I’m glad we caught a break, because we haven’t caught a lot.”
They’ll never get one more oddball, yet thrilling, than this. The Twins appeared headed to a devastating, disheartening loss in the ninth inning, with the tying run on third base and the winning run on first with no outs. But closer Kevin Jepsen got Dae-Ho Lee to pop out to shallow right for the first out. Then he threw a pitch into the dirt that bounced a few feet from catcher Juan Centeno. Kyle Seager broke toward second base, but Centeno pounced on the loose ball and rifled it to Brian Dozier at second base. Seager, seeing he was about to become the second out, pulled up and headed back toward first.
Dozier followed him with the ball, but kept his eye on pinch-runner Shawn O’Malley, who was tiptoeing off third base. Suddenly, Dozier spun and threw to third, where Eduardo Nunez tagged him as he dove for the bag, then jumped up and fired it to second, where Eduardo Escobar tagged Seager for the final out.
“A lot of things go through your head, one being, that’s the winning run [in the rundown]. You’ve got to try to get that out, but you can’t lose your aggressiveness,” said Dozier. When he threw to Nunez, “I didn’t get my feet situated, and I threw from my back leg. I knew it was going to be bang-bang, but Nunez did a good job putting the tag on.”
The Mariners challenged both out calls, but after the umpires conferred with the replay center in New York, both were upheld. And just like that, the Twins owned a three-game winning streak for the first time in more than a month.
Molitor couldn’t recall a weirder way to win, “not at the end of a game like that. A lot of it blurs together over four decades, I guess, but to record a double play where there’s not a force in order, with the tying run 90 feet away, it’s just a bizarre ending.”
The perfect cap to an incredibly difficult night, however. Twice the Twins allowed the first two Mariners of an inning to reach base, and twice more they let the first three, yet only three runs resulted from all that mess. They made one credited error, misplayed three or four other balls including a seemingly critical drop of a foul fly ball by Miguel Sano, constantly threw to the wrong base and once cut down the go-ahead run at the plate. Phil Hughes gave up nine hits and walked three while recording only 14 outs, and slammed his glove into the bench in anger when he was removed with a lead with two outs in the fifth.
That sound like a formula for victory? Don’t answer that — the Twins don’t care.
“It doesn’t matter how how we got it, it’s just good to get that win,” Dozier said. Even if it took a 2-4-5-6 double play to get it? “This is the major leagues,” he said. “You’re supposed to make that play.”
The Twins were supposed to have a relatively powerful offense this year, too. Suddenly, they do.
Sano launched an upper-deck blast, Nunez drove a ball deep past the foul pole, and Joe Mauer went opposite-field for the second straight night. And when the suddenly-Slugging Twins needed a big hit to take the lead for good, Sano connected again.
This one sailed 50 feet in the air, easy, and bounce-bounce-bounced between Seattle infielders Luis Sardines and Kyle Seager into left field. Maybe it wasn’t as majestic as any of the Twins’ eight homers over the past three games, but it was plenty awe-inspiring for the Twins, given that it produced their seven win in their last eight games in Safeco Field.
Nunez raced home from second base on Sano’s seventh-inning, tie-breaking, seeing-eye single, and the Twins made that slender lead stand up.
Not that it was ever easy.
“It’s been a frustrating year,” Hughes summed up. “But the ending of that game, that was really fun.”