Third baseman Josh Donaldson surprised his teammates with blue, terrycloth bathrobes featuring players’ names and numbers before the game, and Nelson Cruz — sitting out with knee soreness — brought his to the dugout. When his teammates hit home runs, the veteran designated hitter placed it on their shoulders like a mantle.
“I got to wear it twice today,” said right fielder Max Kepler said. “I hope we keep it going because it brought some luck today.”
Kepler tied the game with a solo home run in the eighth inning, then plated Eddie Rosario with the winning run with a bloop single in the 10th as the Twins rallied twice to beat the Tigers and pull within a half game of American League Central-leading Chicago.
Byron Buxton and Mitch Garver also homered for Minnesota, which holds the fourth seed in the expanded AL playoffs with four games remaining. Taylor Rogers (2-4) gave up the go-ahead run on a pair of singles in the 10th but earned the victory.
It was the Twins’ fourth walk-off of the season.
“(Cruz) was like, ‘All right, who’s putting on this robe?’ I was like, ‘All right. This is a thing now, then,’ ” he said. “It was just something that kept us relaxed and kept us there. It was one of those things where the bats weren’t coming along quite like we wanted them to, so it was find ways to keep fighting and keep going. So it keeps the game fun for us.”
Garver was next; his solo shot with one out in the fourth put the Twins up, 2-1. Eddie Rosario, however, was denied despite driving in the tying run in the 10th and scoring the winning run after stealing second base.
Was he jealous?
“Hell, yeah,” he said. “I want to try hitting homers. Maybe tomorrow.”
The Twins finish their season series with Detroit on Wednesday, then get a day off before playing host to Cincinnati this weekend. They already have clinched a postseason spot and are currently lined up to host the New York Yankees in a three-game series starting Tuesday.
In the 10th, Rosario scored pinch-runner Jake Cave with a soft single to center off Bryan Garcia to tie the game 4-4. He stole second base as Garver struck out for the second out, but Kepler poked an opposite field single just over third base to score Rosario with the winning run.
Kepler, who as struggled at the plate after a breakout season in 2019, has six hits, including two home runs, and five RBIs in his past three games.
“I was really just trying to put the ball in play,” he said. “I feel like a lot of at-bats this year, I’ve been feeling a lot of mechanics, and usually when I’m thinking about mechanics, the going is tough for me. Luckily, I had a clear mind.”
That, he said, was the key,
“I’ve had a clear mind the last couple of games, thanks, I guess, to the work and belief from some people around me that are getting my spirits up,” he said. “Like I always say, just try to keep the ball in play, keep it simple, and stuff happens.”
The Twins played some sharp defense, as well, turning a 6-2-5 double play to get out of a bases-loaded, no outs jam in the fourth inning, and getting the potential tying run at the plate when Eddie Rosario threw out Isaac Pareda on a single to left in the fifth.
Homer Bailey made his first start for the Twins since July 28. Reinstatedfrom the injury list (biceps tendinitis) before the game, he struck out three batters in three innings and didn’t allow a hit until Castro’s single to center in the fourth inning.
But he also walked leadoff hitter Victor Reyes and gave up a run-scoring single to Miguel Cabrera that tied the game, 1-1. When Bailey walked Jeimer Candelario to load the bases, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli called on right-hander Cody Stashak to stanch the bleeding.
With the infield drawn in, Stashak got Brandon Dixon to ground sharply to shortstop Ehire Adrianza, who threw home to force out Castro. Catcher Mitch Garver then threw to third baseman Josh Donaldson to force out slow rolling Miguel Cabrera.
“(Donaldson) had mentioned to the group that we would have a chance to go home to third base. That was actually discussed,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was an impressive comment, and then (Adrianza) is able to take it out onto the field. … It was pretty awesome. The dugout was feeling it. The guys were very excited. It’s an unusual play. It makes it all the more difficult and I was impressed, I’ll tell you that.”