Seven runs scored right away, in the first inning of this game. Looking to bounce back after three consecutive bad starts, Griffin Jax struggled early tonight. Despite getting ahead on the count, the Twins starter gave up a double to Nicky Lopez and a walk to Salvador Pérez before facing Andrew Benintendi. A lifetime .349 hitter (1.035 OPS) at Target Field, the former Red Sock improved those numbers even more by hitting a three-run bomb to put Kansas City ahead.
But rookie lefty Daniel Lynch didn’t take advantage of all the run support. The Virginia native gave up four consecutive hits to open the game. The first one was a mammoth, 457-feet leadoff home run to Byron Buxton.
Minnesota was definitely not done hitting that inning. Jorge Polanco followed that Buxton homer with a double, with Rob Refsnyder adding a single. Josh Donaldson didn’t care that Lynch hadn’t brought an umbrella with him and brought the rain to catapult the Twins into the lead, 4-3.
But contrary to what happened in the first inning, both starters settled down and mostly dominated their opposing lineups for the following innings. Lynch tossed four scoreless, and, beginning with the final two outs of the first, Jax was able to retire eight in a row, including a pair of 1-2-3 innings. Benintendi broke the streak leading off the fourth and later scored from first on a long double from Michael Taylor, tying the game.
That didn’t affect Jax at all. The rookie retired seven of the final eight batters he saw, going scoreless in the fifth and the sixth. He didn’t come back for the seventh, even though his pitch count was still at only 76 pitches, 57 of which were thrown for strikes (75%!). Tonight’s start was the first since Aug. 16, in which Jax completed six innings of work. After a 23-pitch first inning, he navigated through the next five on only 53 pitches. Can he use this outing to regain some confidence and finish the season on a high note?
Neither offense performed well against opposing bullpens. Tyler Duffey and Jorge Alcalá threw a couple of scoreless innings on only 20 pitches, 80% of which were strikes. Royals hitters didn’t know what hit them. While Kansas City’s relievers were just as effective, Donaldson did drew a two-out walk in the eighth, bringing Miguel Sanó to the plate. However, he struck out, ending the threat.
Benintendi was at it again, hitting a leadoff single off Alexander Colomé in the ninth inning. But Colomé did a great job, striking out the next two batters on six pitches, before retiring Taylor. The offense couldn’t take advantage of yet another great outing by a Twins reliever, as they fell in order in the bottom half of the inning, taking the game to extra innings.
To the extras, we go
Red-hot Juan Minaya came in to pitch the 10th, posting a 0.98 ERA in his previous 14 outings. He struck out the first batter he saw but then gave up a walk to Kansas City’s number nine hitter, Edward Olivares, forcing him to face the top of the Royal lineup with two men on. He struck out Whit Merrifield but then committed a fielding error against Lopez, loading the bases to face Pérez. Fortunately, “Salvy” swung on the first pitch he saw and grounded out, with a beautiful throw from Polanco to first.
In the bottom half of the 10th, Luis Arráez drew a leadoff walk, putting two men on. But the Twins couldn’t move either runner, with the following three batters being retired. Buxton, who hit immediately after Arraez, made an absolutely awful bunt attempt.
Following that, Minaya continued in the game, and Benintendi (who else?) swung on the first pitch he saw, homering to center field, scoring him and Pérez, the ghost runner. Kansas City took a definitive two-run lead, 6-4. Donaldson, Sanó, and Brent Rooker went down in order in the bottom of the 11th.
Minnesota drops the first of three games of the series. They send Michael Pineda to the mound on Saturday evening, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:10 pm CDT.
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