No Nelson Cruz. No Jose Berrios. No problem.
In the midst of a disappointing and injury-plagued season that saw them holding down last place in the American League’s Central Division, the Minnesota Twins decided to build for the future near the July 30 trade deadline, trading away their best hitter, All-Star DH Nelson Cruz, and arguably their top starting pitcher, two-time All-Star Jose Berrios, as well as starter J.A. Happ and reliever Hansel Robles, for seven prospects, six of them pitchers.
It looked like a white flag move for the 2021 season for the two-time defending AL Central champions. Instead, the Twins head into Tuesday night’s game with the Cleveland Indians in Minneapolis with a chance to win their fourth consecutive series and improve their record in August to 9-5.
Rookie right-hander Bailey Ober (1-1, 4.53 ERA) will make his 14th career start but first against the Indians. He’ll be opposed by rookie right-hander Eli Morgan (1-5, 6.52 ERA), who will be making his 11th career start and first against the Twins.
Minnesota won its third straight game with its second consecutive walk-off win on Monday night in the series opener as Jorge Polanco lined a two-out double down the right field line to drive in Max Kepler from second base in a 5-4 victory.
It was Polanco who also drove in Kepler with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in the bottom of the ninth in a 5-4 victory over AL East-leading Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon, giving the Twins their third straight series win over an AL division-leading team.
“We’re playing really well, and it means a lot to us,” said Polanco after becoming the first Twin since Jacque Jones on July 19th and 20th of 2005 against Baltimore to have walk-offs in back-to-back games. “That last at-bat I went up looking for a changeup first pitch.”
He got it from Cleveland reliever Nick Wittgren and lined it into the right field corner to easily drive in Kepler.
“(Polanco) did it again,” said Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli. “Another big moment for him.”
The Twins improved to 8-3 in their last 11 games, including winning three of four at AL West-leading Houston and two of three at home from both Central-leading Chicago and East-leading Tampa Bay.
“We’re clicking in all phases of the game right now,” said Josh Donaldson, who is batting .412 with four RBIs over the last four games. “Today, from a defensive aspect was not our best performance (four errors), but besides that hitting and our pitching continue to kind of bail us out there.”
“We’re playing some great baseball,” added Baldelli. “When you get guys in scoring position in tight ballgames, you need someone to get a big hit. And today it was (Polanco) going out there.”
Interim Indians manager DeMarlo Hale said his team, which was retired 1-2-3 by Twins reliever Caleb Thielbar in the top of the 10th and never advanced designated runner Amed Rosario from second base, failed to come up with a key hit like Polanco’s.
“Just a great effort,” Hale said. “Came up short. When I look back, just didn’t get the big hit. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.”
–Field Level Media