Twins beat Rays 7-6 on Carlos Santana's walk-off hit

Phil Miller, Star Tribune on

Published in Baseball

Carlos Santana hates sitting out. Even after 15 major league seasons, with his 2,000th career game just days away, the veteran first baseman lobbies manager Rocco Baldelli to play.

"Honestly, he's ready for anything. The other day, in a doubleheader, it's 90 degrees outside, he's talking me into playing him in Game 2," Baldelli said before the game. "That's his mentality, he wants to be out there all the time."

He utilized a smart tactic to accomplish it on Tuesday — he made himself essential.

Santana, serving as a pinch-hitter on, yes, a dreaded day off, waited on a 1-1 curveball in the bottom of the ninth inning, pulled it into right field and became the walk-off hero as Manuel Margot scored from second base, handing the Twins their sixth straight victory, 7-6 over the Rays at soggy Target Field.

The winning hit came against Rays reliever Phil Maton, Tampa Bay's eighth pitcher of the night, who had to take over for closer Pete Fairbanks when Carlos Correa's one-hop come-backer hit Fairbanks' pitching hand and the righthander couldn't continue.

The victory was an especially satisfying one for the Twins, who overcame a 4-0 deficit that Pablo López found himself in, a problem wrought by a critical home run by Randy Arozarena.

López is certainly used to the problem. The Twins' nominal ace moved into the MLB lead in home runs allowed on Tuesday, having surrendered 16 in 80 innings this season. Five of them have come in the first inning, just one away from the lead.

The game began with thunder audible in the distance and the skies growing darker, so the teams understood that a delay was likely. The mood grew even darker once the Rays began pelting López; three of the first five hitters the righthander faced hammered the ball at least 103.5 mph.

One was Yandy Diaz's leadoff fly out, but Brandon Lowe hit a 106-mph grounder up the middle for a single. After Isaac Paredes drew a walk, Randy Arozarena gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead by bashing López's first pitch, an 88-mph changeup in the middle of the plate, into the second deck in left field, his 10th of the season.


The Rays increased the lead to four runs when the top of the lineup came up again, this time behind a pair of infield singles by Diaz and Paredes, and an RBI hit to right by Josh Lowe.

The Twins finally struck back in the fourth inning, following a leadoff single by Carlos Correa, who had already doubled two innings earlier. Two quick outs made it look like any rally would fizzle, but Ryan Jeffers lined a single to right, and Austin Martin walked, loading the bases.

That brought up Willi Castro, one of the Twins' hottest hitters, and he cleared the bases with a line drive that stayed just inside the right-field foul line and rolled into the corner for a double. Martin slid home just ahead of the relay throw, and Castro scored the tying run moments later when Trevor Larnach looped a sinking liner into the left-field corner for another double.

Once the Rays returned to the plate, there was only time for one more batter to face López before the rains arrived. Unfortunately, Brandon Lowe was that batter, and he smashed an 0-2 sweeper into the first row of seats high atop the wall in right-center.

The game resumed an hour and 23 minutes later, this time with Jay Jackson on the mound, and his luck with a Lowe on an 0-2 count — this one Josh, the DH — was no better. He golfed slider below the strike zone onto the grass berm in center field.

But again, the Twins struck back quickly — two-pitches quickly, in fact. Max Kepler, who earlier in the homestand became Target Field's all-time home-run leader, added No. 82 to his total, smacking an inside fastball from righthander Shawn Armstrong onto that same berm.

Carlos Correa followed by drawing a walk, moved up on Jose Miranda's hit and a potential double play foiled by Byron Buxton's speed, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Jeffers.


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