MINNEAPOLIS – Nothing about that ninth inning made sense.
Well, shoot, little about this season made sense for the twins, anyway.
Aroldis Chapman entered with a 0.39 ERA, having conceded a homer all season. The twins fell behind by two points, having not been in a comeback in the ninth inning all season.
So, of course, the last-placed Twins rushed into the Yankees to turn the near-certain defeat into their most unlikely win of the season in a blinding flash of five pitches. Josh Donaldson crushed a 438-foot two-point homer to equalize the match, before Nelson Cruz left no doubt with a 457-foot moonshot that secured a 7-5 walk-off win and released pent-up energy to Target Field in a thunderous outburst.
This kind of thing doesn’t happen to Chapman.
This kind of thing doesn’t happen to the twins when they face the Yankees.
But for once they did. And a team of twins seemingly in need of some sort of magical jolt to change things may have conjured one.
“He is the best up close in the game, so it was extraordinary to be able to score four points against him,” said Cruz. “I can’t remember anyone [comeback] how’s that. “
You have to go back on August 5, 2019, to find the last time the twins hit a homer walk-off. You have to go even further back to June 18, 2016, to find the last time Chapman allowed multiple homers in one game. You have to go back to July 5, 2014 – when Chris Parmelee, Kendrys Morales and Yohan Pino roamed the Twins bench – for the last time the Twins went against the Yankees.
And as for Statcast, you can’t go back far enough to find the last time Chapman allowed homers of 438 or 457 feet – because he had never allowed explosions this long since the system started tracking.
“He was so good,” said Twins owner JA Happ, who was Chapman’s teammate in New York for three seasons. “You know his ability to hit guys even if he’s in trouble. He often manages to make his way with the things he has. We were only able to try to zone him and we got some nice twists. “
How does this also happen?
It starts with the leadoff Jorge Polanco. Cruz pointed out that Chapman’s scouting report noted that the southpaw, who entered the game with a 1,047 ERA + (947% better than the MLB average) had been using more broken balls lately.
Polanco got two sliders to start his plate appearance and caught them both by the balls, forcing Chapman into the strike zone with quick balls – neither of which broke his 98.8 mph seasonal average. And once the heaters started coming, the twins were ready.
“If you have to point out something different, my speed wasn’t there like it used to be,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “And the batters were ready to jump on the fastball tonight.”
Polanco took two heaters before lining up one in the left field for a single solid. Donaldson went to the plate by shooting for a fastball and caught two – the second of which was a cookie cutter, 95.5 mph, high belt step on the inside half that he blasted into the upper deck. It was his eighth home run of the season and the fourth that tied the game or gave Minnesota the lead.
Willians Astudillo got another quick ball. This too was put on the left for a solid single before Astudillo – of course – lost his helmet while celebrating. And when Cruz landed yet another first-pitch fastball, he lifted the Twins’ second-longest homer of the year, breaking a 12-game drought without a homer, his longest since arriving in Minnesota in 2019.
“It was one after another hard contact, hard and also really up there, without any fear,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “Don’t go up there, do flips, see what it will do. Our boys went up there ready to hit and hit the balls hard. “
Cherry on the cake? Across the river in St. Paul, there were two equally large home runs, both born to a rehabilitated Byron Buxton, who may soon rejoin the Twins after his stint in Triple-A.
A jolt on the pitch could soon be followed by another in the clubhouse. And maybe that’s how things finally start to turn, before it’s really too late.
“Let’s hope so,” Happ said. “We don’t talk too much between ourselves, because it’s not a fun conversation to have, just how hurt or beaten or whatever you want to say. To introduce myself and try to grind every day. Again, I felt like we were in the game and we had a chance there.
“And today we have grown up great”.