Starter: J.A. Happ 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 4 K
Home Runs: Nelson Cruz (16), Nelson Cruz
Top 3 WPA: Matt Shoemaker (.969), Miguel Sano (.384), Caleb Thielbar (.232)
Bottom 3 WPA: (if they lose)Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
Before Monday night’s game even saw the first pitch tossed it was a big night. First, on Cancer Awareness Night the Twins remembered bench coach Mike Bell who passed away during Spring Training after his own fight with cancer. If you missed the tribute it is a must-watch.
Also, Monday marked the day that MLB’s new foreign substance went into effect as well. As much as substances used by pitchers have been the storyline over the last month-plus of baseball, how these guidelines are enforced and affect the game will be the story the rest of the way for 2021.
The Twins started off the game's offense with a big 2nd inning. It started with a Nelson Cruz bomb for 424 feet at a pace of 116.5 mph to put the Twins up 1-0. The table was then set by more of that core the Twins have relied on for years with Kepler walking and Polanco hitting a single to put runners on the corners. A Kirilloff RBI single added to the Twins lead and a later Arraez sacrifice fly would let the Twins end the inning up 3-0.
Even though the Twins were in the lead, it was another case of the Twins missing a chance to bust a game open. They left the bases loaded with plenty of opportunities to practically put the game out of reach early. Only time would tell if that would come back to hurt them later in the evening.
Happ Good Enough Early, Then…
Happ had plenty of rocky stretches early on, but through 3 innings had held the Reds scoreless. The 4th inning took a turn for the worse. Happ issued a walk to Tyler Stephenson who would later advance to 2nd on a wild pitch. While Happ had worked around base runners in earlier innings, this time Eugenio Suarez got on a Happ fastball and sent it into the seats for a 2-run home run.
Aristedes Aquino would then hit a solo shot into the left-field bleachers. A home run that many (including this writer) would bring an end to Happ’s evening. The Twins did bring him back in the 5th where he was able to get two more outs before being lifted for Luke Farrell.
Another Scare from Buxton
Once again it seems that Byron Buxton just cannot avoid the freak injuries. This time it was a stray pitch from Reds starter Mahle that hit Buxton on the hand. Buxton did his best to stay in the game initially. After catching a fly-ball to end the Twins defensive side of the 5th inning. Buxton was 1-for-2 with an infield hit when he was forced from the game.
After the game the update was that Buxton has a boxer's fracture.
Larnach couldn’t get the hit the Twins needed. That left the Twins with the 9th inning to try and get the job done before extra innings. They couldn’t leave another chance with the bases loaded pass them by, right? This time with Kepler, Polanco, and Kirilloff on with 1-out the Twins saw Jeffers take an incredibly painted pitch for a strike-out and Simmons ground out to send the game to extras.
Extra-innings began with the Reds and Twins exchanging 2-run innings. And as the 11th inning began, former starter Matt Shoemaker took the mound for the Twins. Twins fans have become used to Shoemaker’s unfortunate results as a starter but that wasn’t the case Monday night as he pitched a great 11th and 12th inning.
That got Miguel Sano to the plate in the Twins half of the 12th, after Arraez had helped move Simmons over from 2nd to 3rd. It didn’t matter where Simmons was standing in the end as Sano blasted a home run over the entire Reds defense for the walk-off win.
It was a firework-worthy ending for the longest game in the MLB this season! Also 5 in a row for the Twins!
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