Twins turn to Maeda with shot at sweep of Tigers, Central lead

MLB Minneapolis

Right-hander Kenta Maeda takes the mound for his final playoff tune-up as the Minnesota Twins try to complete a sweep of their two-game series with the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night in Minneapolis.

Maeda (5-1, 2.52 ERA) is 0-2 with a 5.00 ERA in three career starts against the Tigers but has pitched well at Target Field, where he is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in four career starts. He’ll be opposed by rookie right-hander Casey Mize (0-2, 6.08) who has a pair of no-decisions with a 6.43 ERA in two career starts against Minnesota.

Depending on how things play out, the Twins (34-22), who have won three in a row and are an MLB-best 22-5 at home, could be playing for first place in the American League Central.

Minnesota closed to within a half-game of the first-place Chicago White Sox with a 5-4 walk-off victory in 10 innings over the Tigers in Tuesday night’s series opener. The White Sox, who have dropped the first two games of their four-game series at Cleveland, face Cy Young Award favorite Shane Bieber on Wednesday night.

One thing is for certain: The Twins won’t go down without a fight. All one has to do is check out the wardrobe in the dugout during Tuesday night’s comeback win.

Third baseman Josh Donaldson gave his teammates and support staff matching long, thick blue robes with their names and numbers etched on the back prior to Tuesday night’s contest. Nelson Cruz, who sat out the game resting a sore knee, actually wore his into the dugout and then draped it around Byron Buxton after he led off the first inning with his 13th home run of the season and eighth in 12 games.

Mitch Garver then got to wear the “rally robe” after returning to the dugout following a fourth-inning homer. Max Kepler got to don it twice following a game-tying home run in the eighth and then after his walk-off bloop single that drove in Eddie Rosario with the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th.

“I think it has a chance to stick,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “When I saw it (Cruz’s robe) in the dugout, I wasn’t expecting it. A little surprised. And then I’m like, ‘Yeah, why would we not wear a robe in the dugout?'”

“I got to wear it twice today,” Kepler said following his second consecutive three-hit game. “I hope we keep it going because it brought us some luck today.”

Rosario, who singled in pinch-runner Jake Cave to tie the game 4-4 and then stole second before coming around to score the game-winner on Kepler’s blooper into shallow left, was asked if he was jealous that he didn’t get to wear the robe.

“Hell yeah,” Rosario said. “I want to start hitting homers. But maybe tomorrow.”

It was a bitter loss for the Tigers, who had taken a 4-3 lead in the top half of the 10th on Jeimer Candelario’s RBI single.

“It’s a tough loss,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “One thing I explained to the club is nobody feels sorry for you. … You think about it, you figure out what happened and then you turn the page and get ready for tomorrow because that same tough team is going to be out there again tomorrow.”

–Field Level Media

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