2020 virtual ALDS: Twins vs. Indians

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 13: Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi #12 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 13, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 13: Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi #12 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 13, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Nelson Cruz, whose ninth inning walk-off evened the series at a game each. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Nelson Cruz, whose ninth inning walk-off evened the series at a game each. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Game 2: The pivotal ninth

It would be no exaggeration to assert that the entire series pivoted on the second game’s ninth inning. Truth be told it turned twice, each team producing what appeared to be a climactic moment.

The Twins started Jake Odorizzi (17-7, 4.44). He and the Indians were familiar to the point of intimacy, Odorizzi having faced them six times during the regular season. He beat them once, lost to them twice.

Cleveland countered with Aaron Civale (15-7, 3.43), whose development had been one of the highlights of the Indians’ season.  His three 2020 appearances against the Twins resulted in one loss, a 5-0 shutout August 5 at the hands of Homer Bailey.

Ramirez’s second inning home run gave Civale a brief lead, but it didn’t last long. In the bottom of that same inning, Civale retired the first two hitters then made the mistake of walking Sano. The Twins exacted the maximum penalty for that error. Max Kepler shot a home run over the wall in center field, Mitch Garver followed with a home run of his own to left, Luis Arraez doubled to the wall in center and Byron Buxton drove Arraez home with another double, the fourth consecutive extra base hit.

Odorizzi controlled the Indians into the sixth. DeShields opened that inning with a base hit, but Cesar Hernandez and Roberto Perez went down harmlessly. Then Odorizzi made a mistake of his own, plunking Lindor with a pitch. Oscar Mercado seized the opportunity, driving DeShields and Lindor home with a double into the right field corner.

When Carlos Santana followed with a line single to left Mercado scored the run that tied the game 4-4.

Ciale left after walking Arraez to begin the seventh, but the impact of that base on balls outlasted his presence. Arraez stole second, then Byron Buxton’s ground ball off reliever Nick Wittgren moved him to third with one out. Jorge Polanco’s fly ball to left was deep enough to allow Arraez to score the go-ahead run.

The Twins sent Taylor Rogers, their 28-save closer, out to preserve that one-run margin in the ninth. But this was not a night for closers. Hernandez touched him for a ground single into right, and when Rogers walked Perez the Indians had the tying and go-ahead runs on base with none out.

Rogers whiffed Lindor to ease the pressure a bit, but not enough. Mercado turned around a high breaking ball and sent it over the wall in deepest center field, a dramatic three-run blast that boosted the Indians in front 7-5.

It also left the Indians within three Brand Hand outs of sweeping the Twins at home and taking a 2-0 series advantage back to Progressive Field. During the regular season, there were few surer things than Hand, who saved 37 games with a 2.18 ERA in 51 appearances.

But this was not a night for closers. Arraez opened the ninth by coaxing a base on balls out of Hand, and Buxton followed with a ringing double into the left field corner. With the tying runs on base, Hand got Polanco to bounce right back  to him for the first out.

The second out never happened. Cruz leveled the Twins ultimate weapon at Hand, a three-run walk-off shot down the left field line that made Minnesota an 8-7 winner. Instead of trailing two games to none, the Twins hit the road for Cleveland dead even.

Cleveland            010    030    003 – 7  10  0

Minnesota          040    000    103 – 8    7  0

W: Rogers. L: Hand.