Twins Outlast Tigers in 12 Innings
MINNEAPOLIS - Not bad for a warm-up act, hey?
Baseball's postseason can commence, now that the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins have settled things in their division, even if it took 163 games and three extra innings.
The Twins won 6-5 Tuesday in a 12-inning classic that was exhilarating for the winners, crushing for the losers, and just fine with the New York Yankees. They're waiting in the Bronx for the Twins to open their series Wednesday night. As rewards go for Minnesota, that might be tantamount to an exploding cigar.
But the Twins are happy anyway, and rightfully so, pushed to Yankee Stadium by their own adrenaline, if nothing else. A month ago, they were seven games behind.
"That's all we have left," pitcher Joe Nathan said. "The playoffs are all about adrenaline."
They had more chances to fold than an entire poker table. So did the Tigers. It took fours hours and 37 minutes for someone to blink, the Tigers completing their fortnight swoon with the most painful defeat imaginable.
The Twins' winning hit came from Alexi Casilla, who entered the day batting .198 for the season. The victory went to Bobby Keppel, who has spent most of his career in the minors and had never won a major league game in his life.
Bud Selig can only hope the rest of October is like this.
It was raining and 43 degrees outside at game time Tuesday - a game that grew into an epic, but without the roof would never have happened.
Someone say again why the Twins are so anxious to bolt the Metrodome next season for an open air stadium?
It is hard to believe they would ever want to leave this place - no matter how screwy it is - having seen them homer and domer yet another opponent into postseason submission.
Rare is the visiting team that gets out of here unscathed in October. Between the towels and the Twins and the noise, there's constant danger.
"It gives us energy," catcher Mike Redmond said. "When this team plays with energy, it's unbeatable."
Here is the kind of flip-flop ordeal that can happen to a visiting team in the Metrodome.
Top of the ninth, score tied 4-4, the Tigers put runners at first and third with nobody out, and the heart of their lineup coming. Warm up the bus.
Placido Polanco took a called third strike, and Magglio Ordonez lined into a double play.
Brandon Inge doubled in the 10th to give the Tigers a 5-4 lead.
Michael Cuddyer's sinking liner skipped by Ryan Raburn in left for a triple in the bottom of the 10th. Cuddyer scored on Matt Tolbert's single to tie.
The Tigers loaded the bases in the 12th with one out, and Keppel up to the bill of his Twins cap in peril.
"I didn't hear a thing," he said later. "I just pitched."
Keppel escaped, aided and abetted by a helpful call. One of his pitches breezed by Inge's uniform, but umpire Randy Marsh ruled it missed. The Twins would not lose a division on a brushed jersey. Not in the Metrodome.
"A heartbreaker," Inge called it.
"I thought we had it won three different times," Keppel said.
But once was enough.
Hard days may be ahead for the Twins, for even as they sprayed the obligatory champagne, the first pitch in Yankee Stadium was 20 hours away.
"We'll worry about the Yankees tomorrow," Redmond said.
But the Metrodome was due this happy baseball party, maybe its last one.
"I've already told the guys," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said before the game, "wherever you've been where you felt was the loudest situation you've ever been, multiply it by about four times today, and that's what you're going to have."
The Twins will miss it. They'll miss it when it rains and when it snows. They'll miss the famous nerve-rattling din, which makes opponents feel as if they're trying to play baseball while standing next to a 747.
It is, in many ways, a lousy place to play a baseball game, but a great place to win one. The darndest things happen here in October.
Contact Mike Lopresti at mlopresti(AT)gannett.com