Twins lose to Reds 5-3, but repeat as AL Central Division champions and will face Houston

Tribune Content Agency

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins’ season ended Sunday with a minor loss on the field, and a potentially critical victory in the standings.

Minnesota claimed its second consecutive AL Central championship despite a 5-3 loss to the Reds, a game decided when the Reds strung together three singles and two walks against Twins righthanders Sergio Romo and Jorge Alcala in the 10th inning. Chicago closed its season with a 10-8 loss to the Cubs, missing its chance to tie the Twins for the division title and claim the higher seed.

A bullpen blowup in their home park is not how Rocco Baldelli and his players wanted to close this bizarre season. But in terms of the postseason, it was the best-case scenario, because by losing, the Twins avoided a first-round matchup with the White Sox, whose powerful lineup and a starters Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel make them a dangerous opponent.

Instead, the Twins will open a best-of-three series at Target Field on Tuesday against the Houston Astros, at 29-31 the only AL playoff team with a losing record. The Astros are the defending AL champions and have been to two World Series in the past three seasons, but this year have been hit hard by injuries and own a 9-23 record away from Minute Maid Park. All three games of their playoff series, if necessary, will take place in Minneapolis.

Attempting to benefit from a loss can be a distasteful matter to such competitive athletes, and it was clear in the late innings that the Twins had no appetite for it. Even after Cincinnati scored three runs in the 10th inning, with Tucker Barnhart and Eugenio Suarez providing RBI hits, the Twins responded quickly.

With Jorge Polanco placed on second base to begin the inning, Marwin Gonzalez led off by hitting a changeup from Raisel Iglesias into center field, scoring Polanco. But Mitch Garver struck out, Max Kepler popped out, and Ehire Adrianza closed the regular season by striking out.

The Twins finish as the No. 3 seed, and the winner of Twins-Astros will face the winner of A’s-White Sox in the division series, to take place in California.

The game began amid an atmosphere that belied the matchup maneuvering at stake; it felt more like a typical final-day, bags-packed sort of matinee. Each team managed only one hit through four rapid-fire innings, with an Eddie Rosario double play defusing the Twins’ own serious threat.

Even when they broke through with a run in the fifth inning, it came without a hit — and with only barely discernible action. Jake Cave, on third base after a walk, a ground out and a wild pitch, bluffed his way to the plate as Sonny Gray wound up to pitch to Marwin Gonzalez. Gray tried to hurry his delivery, and in doing so, lifted his back leg off the pitching rubber for an instant. Home plate umpire Tim Timmons called a balk, Cave was awarded the run, and the Twins’ “rally” had them in front for a moment.

They added another run in the sixth, too, on a walk, Luis Arraez’s sixth hit in two days, and a sacrifice fly by Rosario.

But Cincinnati responded immediately each time. In the sixth, the Reds made Rich Hill pay for a two-out walk to Joey Votto. Matt Wisler relieved the veteran lefthander, immediately gave up a double by Eugenio Suarez that fell between Cave and Max Kepler, and the score was tied. The following inning, Tyler Clippard’s streak of 11 straight batters retired ended with a pinch-hit double by Jesse Winker, followed by an RBI single by Freddy Galvis.


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