MINNEAPOLIS (AP)The Minnesota Twins feted their fourth walk-off win in this remarkable season with a bath of water and bubble gum for Ronald Torreyes, whose bases-loaded hit by pitch in the three-run 12th inning brought them one step closer to their first American League Central title in nine years.
They might need champagne for their next celebration.
The unusual game-ending at-bat by Torreyes, just his sixth of the year for the Twins, followed the tying two-run single by Marwin Gonzalez and capped a 9-8 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night that kept their division lead at five games.
”When I saw the roster when I got offered by this team, I saw the talent and a lot of young guys,” said Gonzalez, in his first season with the Twins. ”There’s talent plus energy, which does a lot. That’s a big part of the game. When your guys have talent and they’re hungry to play, they give everything on the field. That’s what makes a team special.”
The Twins, who improved to 13-5 against the White Sox this season, trimmed their magic number for clinching the division to seven. Any combination of wins by Minnesota and losses by Cleveland over the remaining 11 games will give the Twins the title. The Indians beat Detroit earlier in the evening.
”I think we’re playing some of our best baseball of the year right now. Am I surprised by what I just saw? No,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. ”Is it probably statistically improbable what we just saw? Maybe a little bit. But I’m not surprised from our group. I’m not surprised from our guys one bit.”
The Twins led 5-0 after three innings, but the White Sox, who finished with 20 hits and have 26 homers and 82 runs in their last 14 games, pounded the ball all over the ballpark on this summer-like night. They tied it by the sixth and took the lead in the 11th when AL batting leader Tim Anderson went deep.
After a sacrifice fly by Mitch Garver tied it again in the bottom of the inning for the Twins, Ryan Cordell hit a two-run homer in the 12th off Ryne Harper (4-2) for the White Sox, one of four homers allowed by six Twins relievers.
That set up the latest rally by the Twins, this time against Jose Ruiz (1-4) with spare September parts LaMonte Wade Jr. and Torreyes playing key late roles.
”We’re never out of a ballgame with our lineup,” said Wade, whose aggressive advance on a wild pitch as a pinch runner in the 11th set himself up to score the tying run in that inning.
Said White Sox manager Rick Renteria: ”That was some kind of a battle, against arguably one of the best teams in the big leagues.”
The Twins, who nearly three weeks ago broke the major league single-season mark for home runs set last year by the New York Yankees with 267, accomplished another long ball feat by becoming the first team with five players to reach the 30-homer mark.
Miguel Sano arrived there with a three-run shot to the third deck in left-center field off Ross Detwiler, joining Nelson Cruz (37), Max Kepler (36), Eddie Rosario (31) and Mitch Garver (30). That gave the Twins 289 home runs, two more than a Yankees team trying to maintain possession of the record.
The homer by Sano was estimated at 482 feet, the second-longest in Target Field history. Jim Thome, now a special assistant to the general manager for the White Sox who was at the game, hit one for the Twins pegged at 490 feet on July 17, 2011.
Detwiler made his first appearance in more than two weeks, subbing for All-Star Lucas Giolito, who was shut down on Monday because of a mild back muscle strain. The Twins took advantage with a five-run third inning, starting with Ryan LaMarre’s leadoff home run. Rosario hit an RBI double, and Sano followed with his blast.
Twins starter Martin Perez, further decreasing any possibility he’d be in a postseason rotation, departed with 10 hits allowed in 4 2/3 innings, after an RBI single by James McCann in the fourth and a sacrifice fly by Anderson and a run-scoring single by AL RBI leader Jose Abreu in the fifth.
Reliever Trevor May stranded two runners to end that inning with a strikeout, but he surrendered back-to-back homers to rookie Zack Collins and Adam Engel in the sixth to let the White Sox tie the game. Combined, Collins and Engel have 20 home runs in 986 career major league at-bats.
TIM AT THE TOP
Anderson went 4 for 6 to raise his average to .336 and stretch his lead in the batting race over New York Yankees infielder D.J. LeMahieu (.329). In his last 30 games, the 26-year-old Anderson, who hit only .240 last season, is batting .385 in 135 at-bats.
Kepler was held out for the third straight game because of soreness in his left shoulder, which also kept him out of four games last week. Kepler said he’s feeling better, and none of the tests or scans revealed any cause for concern. He played the doubleheader the Twins swept in Cleveland on Saturday and felt more discomfort.
RHP Dylan Covey (1-8, 7.98 ERA) was scratched from his scheduled start in for the series finale because of shoulder soreness, so RHP Ivan Nova (10-12, 4.86 ERA) will pitch the first inning on Wednesday night instead of his regular bullpen session. ”And then we’re going to try to figure out what we do from there,” Renteria said.
RHP Jake Odorizzi (14-6, 3.60 ERA) will pitch for the Twins, who have won seven of his last eight turns.
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