For the Minnesota Twins, any kind of win is elusive, especially stunning victories in the ninth inning.
Coming off their most dramatic win of the season, the Twins hope to finally get rolling Friday night when they host the Houston Astros in the opener of a three-game series.
Expected to win the American League Central, the Twins have spent most of the season well under .500. On Thursday, they were three outs away from falling 14 games under .500. Nine pitches later, Minnesota was celebrating a stunning 7-5 win over the New York Yankees.
“I think these types of games and these wins, they do a lot for the team,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think they teach individual players lessons about the game and how these games go and what you need to do to win.”
Josh Donaldson hit a game-tying homer off Aroldis Chapman, and Nelson Cruz won it with a 457-foot two-run homer after the Twins entered the game hitting .165 with one homer in the ninth inning. The dramatic homers capped a 12-hit showing for Minnesota’s offense, which was 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
“It was a memorable instance,” Baldelli said. “The way that played out, it was all very fast. It was an action-packed inning, a loud inning. Those balls were hit hard.”
The Twins are facing the Astros for the first time since losing both games of the wild-card playoffs in October. This time, Minnesota is looking to win for the sixth time in 14 games since a four-game winning streak May 29.
While Minnesota’s dramatic win came against a struggling foe, the Twins’ next opponent is rolling. Houston heads to Minnesota with eight wins in the past 11 games and nine in the past 16. The Astros also are 28-17 since April 22 and 4-2 on their nine-game road trip.
On Thursday, the Astros missed a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox when they dropped a 12-8 decision in a game they led 7-4 in the fifth inning.
It was the most runs allowed by the Astros all season and only the third time they had allowed double-digit runs.
Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel homered, while Kyle Tucker drove in three runs for Houston. But a significant defensive miscue ultimately resulted in the loss: Tucker dropped a game-tying sacrifice fly for an error.
“It was a tremendous change of emotions about eight times. We’re cheering one moment and kind of lamenting the next moment,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “That was a weird ballgame. The whole game was very strange, and it’s hard to explain. “
Matt Shoemaker (2-7, 7.28 ERA), who is coming off a nightmarish start, opens the series for Minnesota. Last Friday, he allowed nine runs (eight earned) on six hits and got just one out while throwing 38 pitches in a 14-5 loss at Kansas City.
Shoemaker is also 0-4 with an 8.34 ERA in five starts since pitching five shutout innings at Detroit on May 7.
The right-hander is 3-5 with a 3.99 ERA in 12 career appearances (10 starts) against Houston.
Houston will counter with Jose Urquidy (4-3, 3.76), who also is coming off a rocky start. On Saturday, he allowed six runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 6-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo.
Friday is his first career regular-season start against the Twins. In Game 2 of the wild-card series on Sept. 30, he allowed one run on two hits in 4 1/3 innings to take a no-decision.
–Field Level Media