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  • The Show Must Go On: Twins Walk Off Game 163

    Nick Nelson

    In customary fashion, the tiebreaker played between Minnesota and Cleveland to decide the fictional AL Central was an intense nailbiter decided on the final play. But ultimately the Twins emerged victorious, notching their 95th win to take the division crown and advance to the ALDS in our interactive 2020 sim.


    Find the full rundown below as we get ready for what's next.

    Image courtesy of MLB The Show 20, Sony

    To get caught up on what we're doing here, you can check out the introductory post in the series for an explanation of the premise and setup. But the quick version is this: We're playing a progressive simulated Twins season on MLB The Show 20 on PS4, and y'all are helping guide the ship. In each installment I'll update you on what's happened since the last, and put at least one key decision up for vote.


    Date In Game: 9/29

    Team Record: 95-68




    Gm 163 vs CLE: W 3-2 (Snell 6 IP, 0 R, 8 K, W)




    Minnesota Twins Win AL Central Title!




    Throughout this simulated season I've been running on MLB The Show 20, I have typically used the "Quick Manage" mode, which basically means I sim every at-bat in rapid-fire fashion, from a dashboard, and dictate decisions along the way. These games usually take about five minutes each to complete.


    But given the magnitude of Game 163, which was prompted by the final week's events, I figured I would go with the "Manage Full Game" mode, in which I actually watch the simulation play out and manage along the way. I took plenty of screenshots and live-streamed the game on Twitter (starting here). Below I'll provide an in-depth recount of this 10-inning roller coaster.






    Blake Snell, who was voted overwhelmingly last week as the choice to start this game, takes the hill for the Twins. He's been good but not spectacular since coming over from the Rays in a blockbuster deadline trade. We're hoping that his dominant strikeout stuff will show up today in the biggest game of the season.




    Snell gets the leadoff man Delino DeShields Jr. on an attempted bunt hit, with Josh Donaldson charging in and making a nice bare-handed play. Then second baseman Cesar Hernandez tries the same thing successfully, delivering a better, softer bunt. Up comes Francisco Lindor, who sends an opposite-field drive to right; Max Kepler dives but misses and the ball rolls past him. He's able to recover and get it back in quickly enough to hold Hernandez at third.


    Two in scoring position, one out. Already sweating, Snell gets Jose Ramirez to pop out to first base, and then Carlos Santana to ground out to second. Early crisis averted.


    In the bottom half, Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco ground out. Then Mitch Garver draws a walk, taking a tough pitch on a full count, before Miguel Sano strikes out on three pitches.










    Some loud contact in the top half, but Snell gets three lineouts and works around a walk to Bradley Zimmer. In the bottom half, a Nelson Cruz single is the only damage as Josh Donaldson (foul out), Kepler (fly out to RC), and left fielder Marwin Gonzalez (strike three looking) are set down.






    Snell, who had zero strikeouts through the first two innings, starts dialing up the nastiness. He gets DeShields Jr. swinging at a breaking ball in the dirt; Garver corrals it and throws him out at first. Then Hernandez goes down swinging at an outside changeup. Lindor flies out to foul territory near first base.


    In the bottom of the third, our Twins spring to life. Buxton rolls a grounder between short and third. Arraez follows by hitting a soft liner to short, which lands just in front of a charging Lindor. Caught in no man's land, Buxton is thrown out at second, with Arraez replacing him at first. Next up, Jorge Polanco, who crushes a drive to deep right field, high off the wall right of the overhang. Arraez races around from first to score the game's first run, as Polanco checks in with a triple.




    Cleveland keeps the infield back in the next at-bat, and pays for it as Garver scores Polanco on a groundout to short. Twins up 2-0. Sano strikes out again to end the inning.






    By now Snell is definitely finding his groove. He locks up the leadoff man Ramirez with a called third strike on a fastball at the knees. Then he climbs the ladder on Carlos Santana, striking him out on a high 96 MPH fastball. Orlando Mercado battles his way to a walk in the next at-bat before right fielder Daniel Johnson goes down looking at strike three on the corner.


    Twins go in order in the bottom half: Donaldson strikes out on three pitches, Kepler drives a deep liner to left-center that DeShields Jr. hunts down, and Cruz grounds out to second.






    Roberto Perez strikes out swinging at strike three in the dirt, another filthy breaking ball from Snell. DeShields Jr. grounds out to second. Hernandez follows with a solidly struck single to center. This activates the bullpen, with Snell's pitch count starting to climb. In response, he strikes out Lindor on three pitches. By now Snell has seven strikeouts, all since the third inning.


    Minnesota once again goes down in order in the bottom half, with Gonzalez striking out, Buxton lining out to the warning track, and Arraez grounding out to second.






    Another uneventful one. Ramirez strikes out looking again, Snell's eighth strikeout in his past 12 batters faced. Santana pops out to first and Mercado flies out to left. Snell is through six scoreless but he's at 95 pitches. Tyler Duffey and Tyler Clippard are warming in the bullpen.


    The Twins offense follows with another silent half-inning: Polanco grounds out to second, Garver grounds out to short, Sano lines out to left.






    With Snell's stamina draining, and lefty swingers Zimmer and Johnson due up to start the seventh, Rocco Baldelli (me) makes a somewhat controversial decision by bringing in a fresh arm. True to his reverse-split tendencies, Clippard has held LHBs to a .198 average this season, so we give him the nod.


    Zimmer leads off with a bunt single. Johnson flies out to Gonzalez in left. Clippard strikes out Perez, leaving a runner on first with two outs. DeShields Jr. then hits a soft grounder to third; Donaldson fields and fires to second for the force, but it skips past Arraez into right field. Thankfully, Kepler is there to back it up and hold Zimmer on second. Clippard strikes out Hernandez with a changeup, and pumps his fist.




    Twins hitters continue to go quietly in the seventh. Donaldson grounds out to third (a nice play by Ramirez ranging to his right). Kepler lines into the shift at second. Cruz strikes out swinging.






    With the heart of Cleveland's order due up in a 2-0 game, we turn to Tyler Duffey, who's been our best reliever this year and one of the best relievers in the game. He'll be facing Lindor, Ramirez, and Santana.




    But Duffey's control, so consistent through most of the season, is amiss. He issues a leadoff walk to Lindor. His first pitch to Ramirez bounces under Garver and goes to the backstop, but rebounds hard enough to keep Lindor at first. Ramirez smashes a hanging curveball to right but it sails a few feet right of the pole, narrowly missing a game-tying homer. Then he draws a walk. Runners on first and second, no outs. Taylor Rogers starts warming up.


    Santana pulls a grounder through the hole between first and second, scoring Lindor and bringing Cleveland within one. Wes Johnson comes out for a mound visit. The Indians try to play small-ball with Mercado but it backfires as he pops up a bunt to Duffey.


    With one out, Zimmer battles through a tough at-bat, fouls off a couple pitches with a full count, and then takes this pitch for ball four. Ump called it low. Ridiculous.




    That's all for Duffey. In comes Rogers with the bases juiced. He gets Johnson to tap a grounder to short, but Polanco's momentum is carrying him toward first so he takes the sure out. Tie game. With runners on second and third, Rogers strikes out Perez to end it.


    Right-hander Phil Maton is on for Cleveland in the bottom of the eighth. Gonzalez drives one to deep center but DeShields Jr. tracks it down, for the 14th consecutive out recorded by a Twins hitter. That streak finally snaps in the next at-bat, when Maton's curveball slips away from him and hits Buxton in the arm.


    With Buxton's speed on first and our best contact hitter up in Arraez, we call a hit-and-run, but Arraez lines out to right. Buxton scampers back to first. With two outs, Buck tries stealing second, but Perez throws him out by a hair.










    Rogers is back on the hill for Minnesota. He gets DeShields Jr. to ground out to third. Then Hernandez hits a liner to first, which deflects off Sano's glove toward Arraez, who scoops it up and throws to Rogers for the out. Nice heads-up play.


    Lindor follows by slashing a line past Arraez into right-center. With two outs, the Indians shortstop is thinking double out of the box. But Buxton flies into the gap to retrieve the bouncing ball and throw it in to second, beating Lindor there by a mile for the third out. A bit of sweet revenge after Lindor tagged Buxton out in the previous inning.




    Right-hander Hunter Wood replaces Maton on the mound for Cleveland. The Twins get a leadoff single from Polanco – their first hit since his RBI triple in the third – but he's stranded on first as Garver and Sano strike out, and Donaldson lines out to right. It's on to extra innings.






    By now Rogers has already worked 1 2/3 innings, but has retired every hitter he's faced and is still only at 15 pitches. We stick with him. Rogers opens the inning with a swinging strikeout against Ramirez. Then Santana pokes a ground ball through the hole on the right side for a single.


    Mercado hits a sharp grounder to second, and Arraez makes a diving stop, flipping to Polanco for the force, but they only get one. Zimmer follows with a ground ball single between short and third. With runners on first and second, two outs, Franmil Reyes comes in to pinch-hit for Johnson. We opt to stick with Rogers, now past 30 pitches, instead of going to a warmed-up Sergio Romo. Rogers strikes him out.


    Kepler leads off the bottom of the 10th with a strikeout. Then Cruz lines a ringing single to left. Jake Cave subs in to run at first base. His speed comes in handy as Gonzalez follows by pulling a liner down the first-base line, which escapes the reach of first baseman Santana. Cave races around to third base, representing the winning run. Up comes Buxton.


    It's been a tough year for Buxton, but in this crucial moment he comes up huge, hitting a ground ball between Lindor and Ramirez into left. Cave scores easily with the winning run, and the Twins defeat Cleveland to capture the 2020 AL Central crown.






    Player of the Game honors go to Snell, who tossed six shutout frames with eight strikeouts, allowing just three walks and three singles. Good call by everyone who voted on him as our starter last time around.


    But let's not downplay the contributions of our virtual Buxton, who came through with a key defensive play in the ninth and then the game-winning hit in the 10th. It's been a tough year for the center fielder, who finishes with a .223/.294/.327 slash line in 129 games, but he ended it on a high note.


    I'll be back with an ALDS Preview later this week, and at that point we can make some decisions about how we're gonna attack the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays, but for now, let us simply soak in the revelry of winning a fictional 2020 division championship and heading to the playoffs for a matchup against someone other than the Yankees.




    Part 1: We Can Build This Thing Together (0-0)

    Part 2: 10 Games In, 6 Games Back (4-6)

    Part 3: Roaring Back (11-9)

    Part 4: Over the Hill (17-13)

    Part 5: Checking In at the Quarter Point (23-17)

    Part 6: Rising Power (30-20)

    Part 7: First Place! (Barely) (34-26)

    Part 8: Drafting and Dropping (38-32)

    Part 9: Cruz Control (45-35)

    Part 10: Pulling Ahead (52-38)

    Part 11: Bashing into the All-Star Break (58-40)

    Part 12: Deadline Decisions (62-46)

    Part 13: Inauspicious Debuts (66-52)

    Part 14: Treading Water as the Clock Ticks (71-57)

    Part 15: Stretch Race & September Call-Ups (78-59)

    Part 16: Dancing for the Division (84-63)

    Part 17: Down to the Wire (90-66)

    Part 18: Game 163 (94-68)




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