COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins are showing a penchant for the dramatic.
On Monday, Sept. 23, they rallied from three runs down late and beat the Detroit Tigers on another dramatic hit by rookie Josmil Pinto.
Although the Twins are just 5-14 in their last 19 games, in three of those wins, the Twins were trailing in the eighth inning or later. All three of those victories came against contending teams and added drama to the pennant races.
That's a lot of clutch hitting for a team that is supposedly bad in those situations because of a poor batting average with runners in scoring position.
Pinto has been the biggest hero. On Monday, he slapped a single to right field to score Brian Dozier from second base with the winning run in the 11th inning. On Sept. 15, Pinto hit a two-out, three-run home run in the eighth inning to give the Twins a 6-4 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Twins then held on for a 6-4 win.
The Twins' other comeback came against the Oakland A's in the Twins' only win in the season series. On Sept. 10, former Oakland A's player Josh Willingham continued to torment his former team by hitting a one-out, two-run home run to give the Twins a 4-3 lead they would preserve in the ninth.
Monday's comeback was the best of the three, considering the Twins trailed by three runs in the bottom of the eighth and how weakened the Twins' lineup was.
The Twins were without Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Trevor Plouffe and Oswaldo Arcia. Mauer has been shut down for the season by a concussion, Morneau was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Trevor Plouffe has been battling a sore wrist, and Arcia was a late scratch due to hurting his knee while running into the outfield wall shagging balls in batting practice.
Plouffe has been the Twins' best hitter in September and Arcia had a home run and six RBIs in a loss to the A's on Sunday. However, their replacements got the rally started. Outfielder Clete Thomas walked in the eighth and scored on a double by Eduardo Escobar, who scored on a pinch-hit double by Ryan Doumit. The Twins tied the game in the ninth on a leadoff homer by Dozier, his 18th of the season, which is a record for Twins second basemen.
The Twins have actually been quite good in tight games all season. Monday's win gave them a 24-23 record in one-run games and a 9-7 record in extra-inning games. Of course, this means the Twins are 42-67 in games decide by more than one run.
This does make sense since the Twins don't have enough offense to break games open for easy victories or the ability to keep games close very often when the majors' worst starting pitching gets hit around once again. The Twins have lost 29 games this season by five or more runs.
The Twins also have a strong backend of the bullpen, which has allowed them to preserve a large majority of the games in which they do happen to get a small lead. However, the bullpen has been weakened of late due to overuse from a starting staff leaving too many games early.
These comeback victories are good rewards for inexperienced players just starting to learn how to play at a high level throughout the game, even when a team is struggling. At the very least, they provide some reward for loyal fans who have had little else to cheer for over the past three seasons.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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