If Tuesday’s game between the AL East-leading New York Yankees and AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins was a true playoff preview, October can’t get here fast enough.
After a six-run comeback, four blown saves and a half-dozen lead changes, it was Aaron Hicks soaring through the air and catching a would-be game-winner from Max Kepler that gave the Yankees a 10-inning, 14-12 win.
Aaron Hicks’ absurd game-saving catch
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning and the Twins looking for a walk-off, Kepler launched a fly ball to the left-center warning track that would have almost certainly scored all three baserunners if Hicks missed his diving catch. He did not.
Hicks’ catch was preceded by a wild night that might have contended for game of the year had Kepler simply grounded out to first, but the catch provided the exclamation point every great game should have.
The win probability graph ended up looking like a roller coaster that would spark a wave of lawsuits and questions about the laws of physics.
The win gives the Yankees a 10-game lead over the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, while the Twins now only have a three-game lead over the resurgent Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. Still, it should be hard for the Twins to think they truly got beat in a game that figures to see plenty of replays if the two teams meet in the American League Championship Series.
How the Yankees and Twins got there
Rewind a few hours, and it looked like the Twins were on their way to a relatively simply win. New York opened up a 2-0 lead in the first inning, then Minnesota punched back hard by scoring in the next three straight innings for an 8-2 lead.
Some more jostling left the Twins up 9-5 entering the eighth inning. The Yankees rallied again to pull within one and took the lead on a two-run double from Didi Gregorious, who finished the night with five hits and seven RBIs.
Miguel Sano responded 10 minutes later with a mammoth two-run homer. Statcast measured the long ball at 457 feet.
And then, well, you can probably guess what happened in the next half-inning. Hicks delivered what he probably thought would be the highlight of his night by smacking a two-run homer to re-take the lead.
The Yankees brought in close Aroldis Chapman to slam the door shut in the bottom of the ninth, but he just walked straight into the door frame. Chapman walked the first three batters of the inning and relinquished the lead on a Jorge Polanco sacrifice fly.
The Twin could have ended it there with just one hit from their third and fourth hitters in Nelson Cruz and Eddie Rosario, but two line-outs took the game to extras.
Three straight hits in the top of the 10th gave the Yankees the lead one more time at 14-12. As you can imagine, the Twins still nearly came back. Adam Ottavino walked three more batters and eventually left with the bases loaded and two outs.
Chad Green entered the game and saw Kepler hit a likely game-winner, a ball that perfectly split Hicks and Rosario. Then Hicks took flight, and the game was over with the Yankees on top.
All told, there were 25 at-bats in the eighth inning or later that featured the tying/lead-changing run at the plate. Twenty-five at-bats where a homer or extra-base hit would have changed the game. A game of broken leverage indexes and shattered hopes, and something that all baseball fans would be lucky to see once the postseason rolls around.
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