In a plot twist more shocking than anything you’ll see from Hollywood, the Minnesota Twins toppled the New York Yankees in dramatic fashion thanks to 9th inning heroics from 2 veterans.
Happ: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Home Runs: Donaldson (8), Cruz (11)
Top 3 WPA: Cruz .447, Donaldson .376, Astudillo .074
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
Coming into Thursday night’s game, the Minnesota Twins were leaning on the left arm of J.A. Happ to avoid a 3-game sweep against the evil empire, a tall task considering how the free agent had been performing up to that point.
Early on, the game started how all Twins fans imagined that it might, as the righty-heavy New York Yankees lineup got to Happ early, capped off by cleanup hitter Giancarlo Stanton launching a three-run blast to the batter’s eye off Happ in the top of the 1st inning to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.
After settling down a bit in the 2nd and 3rd, the Yankees got to Happ again in the 4th inning when third baseman, Gio Urshela, hit a solo home run.
In his start, Happ threw 101 pitches across 5 innings, allowing 8 hits, 4 earned runs, and a walk while striking out just 2. The start marked Happ’s third in a row that he was unable to get past 5 innings and his 7th consecutive “non-quality” start. Through 11 starts, Happ now owns a 5.75 ERA and on an expiring contract brings almost no trade value to a team desperate for tradeable assets.
The Twins’ bullpen did a nice job keeping the Yankee bats at bay, aside from Tyler Duffey in the 6th inning who allowed the Yankees to connect on 3 hits, including an RBI single from D.J. LeMahieu to give the Yankees their 5th run of the ballgame. After that, the Twins received scoreless innings from Jorge Alcala, Luke Farrell and Hansel Robles to keep the game within reach.
For much of the game, the 5 runs for the Yankees looked as if they would be enough, as the Twins were unable to form any rallies or score runs in bunches, limiting their damage to singular runs in the 1st, 4th and 7th innings with an RBI double from Andrelton Simmons along with 2 RBI from Nelson Cruz.
Heading into the 9th inning, the Minnesota Twins were down 5-3 and the game seemed that it was inevitably headed towards the same fate as so many games from Twins/Yankees past with Aroldis Chapman on the mound, ready to close out yet another Yankee sweep.
The Minnesota Twins’ veterans had other plans, though, as the top of the order came up to bat and immediately showed that they were seeing Chapman well. Polanco led off the inning with a single before Josh Donaldson tied up the game on a 1-0 fastball that he launched to left center for a game-tying home run.
In total, Aroldis Chapman threw just 9 pitches, allowing 4 runs on 4 hits and giving the Minnesota Twins the win.
Another Injury for the Home Team
In a season that has largely been defined by injuries for the Minnesota Twins, yet another player fell victim to the injury bug in Thursday night’s game, Alex Kirilloff. Kirilloff was forced to leave the game after fielding Gio Urshela’s triple in the first inning. Per media, Kirilloff has what has been diagnosed as a left low-grade ankle sprain.
Another Big Night for Nick
The injury to Alex Kirilloff forced the Minnesota Twins to move Gilberto Celestino to right field and thrust utility infielder, Nick Gordon, in center field. Gordon pleasantly more than held his own out in centerfield and did not look overmatched at all, a huge development for the future career of the Twins former first round draft pick. At the plate, Gordon went 2-for-3 and raised his batting average to .435.