On a night his team uncharacteristically committed four errors, second baseman Jorge Polanco once again saved the Twins.
This time he did it with his bat and glove in a 5-4, 10th-inning victory over Cleveland at Target Field on Monday.
One day after his ninth-inning sacrifice fly beat Tampa Bay, Polanco’s line-drive double to right field with two outs scored Max Kepler with the winning run.
It was the Twins’ third consecutive victory and the eighth in their past 11 games.
After Rob Refsnyder hit into a bang-bang double play with the bases loaded in the 10th, Polanco drove in the game’s only run after the sixth inning.
“I’m smiling underneath this mask,” COVID-19-minded Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters in a postgame Zoom call.
He was smiling over Polanco’s deciding RBI just when it looked like his team might have snatched defeat from victory by hitting into that 10th-inning double play.
“It felt like we had it, but you don’t have it until it’s over,” Baldelli said. “You don’t have it until the big hit is had and a guy touches home. Polo did it again. Another big moment for him and we needed it.”
Polanco delivered his second consecutive walk-off plate appearance in a row and his fourth this season.
“I went to the plate trying to see the ball up, trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Polanco told Bally Sports North in a postgame interview. “It didn’t happen the first three at-bats. Then I got good at-bats … Be simple. Don’t try to do too much. Try to get a good pitch to hit. That’s what I go to the plate with.”
It was Polanco’s over-the-shoulder catch on a full run in shallow right field in the seventh inning that kept the score tied at 4, even after he committed one of those four errors in what Baldelli called “not the cleanest game” his team ever played.
“That was a pretty damn good play,” Baldelli said. “That was a fun one to watch, too. In the field, he was a little shaky, but it didn’t affect him on that play because that was a sweet one.”
At the plate, Polanco went 2-for-6, including that walk-off double. Add his winning sacrifice fly from Sunday and he is the first Twins player with walk-off plate appearance since Jacque Jones did so on July 19-20, 2005, against Baltimore.
“We feel really good when he’s up there,” catcher Ryan Jeffers said. “Really, up and down the lineup, we feel really confident with everybody right now. Everybody’s putting together really good at-bats.”
Starter Griffin Jax pitched six innings, then Baldelli usedfour relievers — John Gant, Juan Minaya, Alex Colome and Caleb Thielbar — all for a scoreless inning.
“We went to a few different guys [Monday],” Baldelli said. “Some different spots, some different innings that guys maybe haven’t thrown a ton in before.”
The Twins started the season 0-8 in extra-inning games and now are 9-2 in their past 11.
“There’s just some better mojo going on right now,” said Jeffers, who tied the score 4-4 in the sixth inning with a 426-foot homer to left-center field that was his 11th this season.
Those 11 are the most in franchise history by a rookie catcher, breaking the 10 that Butch Wynegar hit in 1976. That was nearly a decade before veteran Josh Donaldson was born, in 1985.
“We’re having fun,” Jeffers said. “We’re playing loose. We’re all pulling in the right direction right now. It’s hard to sit here and say these games don’t matter because every game matters.”
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