MINNEAPOLIS – Nothing about this ninth inning made sense.
Well, shoot, it didn’t make much sense to the twins about this season anyway.
Aroldis Chapman entered at .39 ERA after allowing a homer all season. The Twins started with two runs after failing to make a comeback in the ninth inning all season.
So, of course, the beaten, last-placed twins rushed closer to the Yankees to convert an almost certain defeat into their most unlikely win of the season in a lightning-fast flash of five pitches. Josh Donaldson smashed a 438-foot two-run homer to tie the game before Nelson Cruz left no doubt with a 457-foot moon shot that secured a 7-5 walk-off win and the pent-up energy in the Target Field in a thundering eruption.
Things like that just don’t happen to Chapman.
Things like that just don’t happen to the Twins when facing the Yankees.
But for once they did. And a Twins team that apparently needs a magical jolt to change things might have conjured you up.
“He’s the best closer in the game so getting four runs against him was remarkable,” said Cruz. “I don’t remember any [comeback] like that. “
You must return by August 5, 2019 to find out when the twins last met a walk-off homer. You have to go back further to June 18, 2016 to find out the last time Chapman allowed multiple homers in a game. You have to go back to July 5, 2014 – when Chris Parmelee, Kendrys Morales, and Yohan Pino roamed the Twins’ dugout – the last time the Twins went against the Yankees.
And as for Statcast, you can’t go back far enough to find out when Chapman was the last time Chapman allowed Homer from 438 or 457 feet – because he had never allowed explosions since the system started tracking.
“He was so good,” said Twins starter JA Happ, who was Chapman’s teammate in New York for three seasons. “You know his ability to destroy people even when he’s in trouble. He’s often able to work his way through with what he has. We could only try to get him into the zone and we made some really nice turns. “
How does that even work?
It starts with lead-off man Jorge Polanco. Cruz pointed out that the scouting report for Chapman found that the left-handed player who came into play with 1,047 ERA + (947 percent better than the MLB average) had used more breaking balls lately.
Polanco got two sliders to start his record gig and took them both for balls, forcing Chapman into the hit zone with fastballs – neither of which cracked his season average of 98.8 mph. And when the heaters started coming the twins were ready.
“If you need to point out anything else, my speed was not what it was before,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “And the hitters were ready to jump on the fastball tonight.”
Polanco took two stokers before putting one in left field for a solid single. Donaldson went plate gunting for a fastball and got two – the second was a cookie cutter, 95.5 mph, belt-high pitch above the inner half that he shot into the upper deck. It was his eighth homer of the season and fourth to either tie the game or give Minnesota the lead.
Willians Astudillo got another fastball. That too was blocked to the left for a solid single before Astudillo – of course – lost his helmet while partying. And when Cruz got another fastball on the first field after that, he picked up the twins’ second-longest homer of the year and snapped a 12-game drought without a homer, his longest since arriving in Minnesota in 2019.
“It was one hard, hard contact after the other and it really went up without fear,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “Don’t go up there, take pitches, see what he’s up to. Our boys went up there, ready to hit balls hard and hit them. “
The cherry on top? Across the river in St. Paul, there were two homers of equal size – both straight from a rehabilitating Byron Buxton who could soon be returning to the Twins after his stint in Triple-A.
A jolt on the pitch could soon be followed by another in the clubhouse. And maybe it’ll finally get rolling – before it’s really too late.
“We definitely hope so,” said Happ. “We don’t talk to each other too much because it’s not fun to talk, how injured or beaten up, or whatever you want to say. We “I tried to just show up and grind every day.” Again, I felt like we were in the game and had a chance.
“And today we made it big.”