The Minnesota Twins seek their fifth consecutive victory when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, one night after utilizing an unusual walk-off celebration that fits the social-distancing era.
Nelson Cruz blasted the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Twins a 5-4 victory on Monday, and he did his best to follow protocols set down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Twins rushed out on the field to greet Cruz after their first walk-off win of the season. With both hands raised, the 40-year-old pretended to slap palms with his teammates and successfully dodged attempts to touch him.
“I was pretty happy watching the guys dance around and not touch each other,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You got to make it fun no matter what’s going on and no matter what’s the circumstances.”
Cruz’s take: “Boring. It’s no fun. Well, I guess, it is what it is. Hopefully next year we celebrate the good way.”
Cruz and Max Kepler each had three hits and two RBIs as the Twins won for the seventh time in the past eight games. Cruz has 14 RBIs, which is tied with the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge for the major league lead.
Cruz came up with runners on second and third with one out in the ninth. Though first base was open, Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton didn’t order the intentional walk, and Cruz made the Pirates and right-hander Nate Burdi pay with the decisive shot that landed on the warning track in center field.
Shelton was the Twins’ bench coach the past two seasons and apparently didn’t like the thought of pitching to ensuing hitter Miguel Sano with the bases loaded.
“I’ve got a pretty good history with the nine guys who are in their lineup over there, and they’re all pretty good professional hitters,” Shelton said.
Cruz’s hit capped Minnesota’s comeback from a 4-0 deficit.
While the Twins (8-2) are tied for the second-best record in the majors, Pittsburgh (2-8) owns the worst mark and has dropped five consecutive contests. The Pirates have scored just 11 runs during the skid.
The Pirates will look to fare better in the second of four straight games between the teams. The clubs meet Wednesday and Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Cole Tucker homered for the Pirates on Monday but also showed his inexperience as an outfielder when he misplayed the probable third out of the sixth inning into a two-run double for Kepler. Those were the second and third runs of a four-run inning that tied the score at 4.
“I trust my athleticism and my ability out there, and I know I can make that play,” said Tucker, who was drafted in the first round (24th overall) in 2014 as a shortstop.
Minnesota third baseman Josh Donaldson (calf) likely will miss his fourth straight game. Donaldson is expected to travel with the team for an eight-game road trip that begins with the two games in Pittsburgh.
Right-hander Jose Berrios will be on the mound for the Twins on Tuesday.
Berrios (0-1, 7.00 ERA) lost to the Cleveland Indians last Thursday when he gave up two runs and three hits over five innings. He struck out six and walked two.
The 26-year-old received a no-decision in his lone career start against the Pirates on Aug. 15, 2018. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) and seven hits. He struck out four and walked two.
Pittsburgh will counter with right-hander Joe Musgrove, who has allowed four homers in two starts. He is 0-2 with a 4.76 ERA.
Musgrove gave up three runs in both setbacks — the first against the St. Louis Cardinals and the second versus the Milwaukee Brewers.
Musgrove has struck out 15 and walked six in 11 1/3 innings.
The 28-year-old lost to the Twins on July 15, 2017, when he was a member of the Houston Astros. He gave up four runs, eight hits and two walks while striking out five in his lone career appearance against Minnesota.
–Field Level Media