The Twins are so hot, they finally boiled over in the 90-degree sunshine Sunday. And Brian Dozier provided the hottest finish of all.
With the Rays utilizing five infielders in hopes of cutting off a run, Dozier slugged a 1-1 changeup over their heads and into the left-field seats, scoring three runs in front of him. It was the fifth walk-off grand slam in Twins history, and the first since Joe Crede managed the feat in 2009.
The Twins rallied to assume leads in the seventh, eighth and 10th innings, finally dousing Dozier in celebration to finish with nine wins in an 11-game homestand.
The game included 15 pitchers, an unusually early appearance by closer Fernando Rodney, the most loudly celebrated balk in stadium history, and two bench-clearing confrontations, the second of which got Eduardo Escobar ejected without throwing a punch.
The ending was just the last of a dozen highlights for the Twins, who enter the All-Star break 7andfrac12; games behind Cleveland in the AL Central. Dozier himself, in fact, had already been in the middle of things, providing the critical single that tied the game in the seventh, then coming home by startling Rays reliever Diego Castillo into balking by faking a steal of home plate.
Dozier was far from the only hero. In fact, Eddie Rosario isnt headed to Nationals Park for Tuesdays festivities, but he finished a memorable first half Sunday by reminding the Twins, the Rays and the American League that he deserves to be. In a game that simmered with emotion, and twice boiled over into bench-clearing confrontations, Rosario was in the middle of two late-inning rallies.
Rosario singled home Robbie Grossman in a four-run seventh-inning uprising, too, then forced a C.J. Cron error with his standard high-risk-high-reward baserunning that allowed him to score the tying run. And Rosario could only look on admiringly well, actually, he bounded out of the dugout in celebration when Brian Dozier sprinted 35 feet up the third-base line and caused startled Rays pitcher Diego Castillo into committing a balk, temporarily putting the Twins ahead.
That inning, though, will be remembered more for the shouting matches that twice escalated into on-field disputes. Eduardo Escobar, hit by a pitch earlier in the game, took exception when Castillo came close with another one. No punches were thrown, and order was eventually restored, only to ignite again once the inning ended. Escobar was walking to his position at third base when he answered some shouting from the Rays dugout, causing another menacing but harmless scrum.
The Rays rode the emotion of the moment to take the lead right back, with Rays catcher Jesus Sucre, who had been in the middle of the mass of players, lining a two-out double to the center field wall.
But that only set up more Rosario heroics. Castillo opened the eighth by walking Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler, and after a sacrifice bunt by Robbie Grossman, Hunter Wood intentionally walked Jake Cave. Rays manager Kevin Cash summoned Sergio Romo Tampa Bays eighth pitcher of the game and he responded by striking out Mitch Garner on a 3-2 pitch. But four straight balls to Joe Mauer forced Polanco home with the tying run.
Up came Rosario, feeling the intensity of the moment as he has all year. He swung at a changeup, then took another one for a ball. And when Romo tried a 75-mph slider on the outside corner, Rosario lifted it into shallow center field, scoring Kepler with the go-ahead run. Jake Cave, though called out at the plate, appeared to score a second run, too, but a replay review failed to overturn the call.