|Twins fans react to Rosario’s first career walkoff homer|
Into the 8th inning on Wednesday night, the Minnesota Twins clung to a 1-0 lead over the San Diego Padres.
The game meant nothing to San Diego, fifteen games below the .500 mark and eliminated from postseason consideration almost from the moment the season opened.
But for the Twins, every game means something. Minnesota finished with the worst record in Major League Baseball a year ago. Now in this magical 2017 season, Hall of Famer Paul Molitor‘s club has turned it around.
Coming into this Wednesday night affair at Target Field, the host Twins were in control of the second AL Wildcard playoff berth with less than three weeks remaining. There have been a half-dozen teams chasing them for weeks. Every victory is precious now.
So when 24-year old Padres catcher Austin Hedges blasted his 16th home run of the season off Twins reliever Trevor Hildenberger in that 8th frame to tie the game, it was huge.
EXTRA FRAMES IN THE TWIN CITIES
The game moved into extras still even at 1-1, and San Diego skipper Andy Green sent 24-year old Phil Maton out to the mound. The right-hander struck out the dangerous Brian Dozier looking to lead things off in the bottom of the 10th inning. One down.
Up to the plate for Minnesota stepped veteran Joe Mauer. At 34 years of age now in his 14th big league season, the Saint Paul native is thoroughly enjoying this unexpected postseason drive.
Maton got ahead of the veteran 0-2. But as he has done for so much of his distinguished career, Mauer came through. He drilled a clean base hit to center, putting himself on as the potential winning run.
Falling behind 3-1 to the next batter, Jorge Polanco, Maton coaxed the shortstop to pop out in third base foul territory. Two outs.
Eddie Rosario has developed into a valuable piece of the Twins surprising lineup. Selected with the Twins fourth round pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in Puerto Rico, the lefty hitter is now in his third year in the big leagues.
Rosario is enjoying by far his best season. The left fielder all year, he has been moved to right field in September. The soon-to-be 26-year old came into the game with career highs in home runs (22), RBI (67), and average (.290), as well as doubles and runs scored.
ROSARIO PLAYS THE HERO
Maton fell behind Rosario 2-0. Not wanting to move the tying run into scoring position, he came in with a strike. Problem is, it was too good of a strike.
Rosario’s eyes had to light up like the Griswold house on Christmas Eve as a fastball from Maton came perfectly into his wheel house. He didn’t miss it, crushing the ball deep down the right field line. As it sailed off towards the stands, the only question was whether it would stay fair.
When it did so, Rosario circled the bases as the home crowd roared. He was mobbed at the plate and bathed in Gatorade by his joyous teammates, celebrating a 3-1 walkoff victory.
“I was waiting for that pitch,” said Rosario per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. “In the last at-bat, I got a lot of fastballs inside. So I was little surprised he pitched inside, but I was waiting on the pitch and I made good contact. It was awesome. It’s the moment every player wants.”
The win would prove especially important when the Los Angeles Angels later won their game by a 9-1 score in Anaheim. The Halos are the nearest pursuers. Thanks to the first walkoff of Rosario’s life at any level, they continue to sit two games behind the Twins in the race for that final AL playoff berth.
Minnesota stays home now to host the Toronto Blue Jays in a four-game weekend set. The Jays spent the last three days taking two of three games from Baltimore, crippling the Orioles own playoff hopes. They would love to continue playing the role of spoiler in the Twin Cities.
The Angels also remain at home. They’ll wrap a series with the AL West-leading Houston Astros on Thursday, then welcome the Texas Rangers in to Angels Stadium for a three-game weekend tilt.