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Walkoff wild pitch is latest way for Twins to lose to Athletics

September 23, 2018

OAKLAND, Calif. History is within the Twins reach. Awful, agonizing, painful history.

Twins closer Trevor Hildenberger, one out away from escaping from a ninth-inning bases-loaded jam, threw a wild pitch to the backstop as he faced Matt Chapman. Stephen PIscotty slid across the plate before the ball could be retrieved, and the Athletics handed Minnesota an excruciating 3-2 loss at Oakland Coliseum.

The loss marked the 15th time this season that the Twins had watched their opponents celebrate a walkoff win, tying the 1964 Twins for the most in franchise history. And with one road game remaining, the Twins can still become the sixth team ever and first in 43 seasons to lose in walkoff fashion 16 times, the most ever.

The Athletics inevitable rally came after they went hitless in their first nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. But after Stephen Piscotty doubled down the left-field line to open the ninth inning against Twins closer Trevor Hildenberger, and Ramon Laureano struck out, Marcus Semien hit a hard ground ball at shortstop Jorge Polanco, who bobbled the ball, then bounced a throw that Joe Mauer couldnt handle. The error, and succeeding intentional walk to Matt Joyce, loaded the bases for Mark Canha, with the Twins bringing right fielder Max Kepler into the infield to help try to cut off any ground ball.

They didnt need the unusual alignment; after fouling off six two-strike pitches, Canha struck out on a low changeup.

But after that epic showdown, Hildenbergers first pitch to Chapman bounced in the dirt and past catcher Willians Astudillo, setting off a celebration in Oakland.

The Twins managed to score twice against Oakland starter Mike Fiers and the As bullpen, with Willians Austudillo in the middle of both rallies. Astudillo doubled against Fiers in the third inning, and scored on a Joe Mauer sacrifice fly. In the seventh, Astudillo singled home Ehire Adrianza, who had doubled, with the game-tying run.

Chase de Jong made one mistake in his third start as a Twin, but it went a long way. With one out and a runner on base in the fifth inning, de Jong left a 1-2 fastball right in the middle of the plate to Semien, a pitch that seemed to make the pitcher cringe even as he released it. It landed atop the scoreboard in left field, giving Oakland its only two runs of the first eight innings.

Not that there werent a few close calls. That same inning, in fact, ended up with the bases loaded and MLB home-run leader Khris Davis, whose pair of homers on Friday had already cost the Twins a game, at the plate against righthander Oliver Drake. But the much-traveled righthander calmly threw a 1-2 splitter in the dirt that Davis waved at to leave three runners stranded.

Two innings later, Davis came to the plate against Tyler Duffey after Matt Chapman and Jed Lowrie led off the inning with back-to-back singles against Zack Littell. Duffey needed just two pitches to induce an around-the-horn double play, and after Taylor Rogers relieved him to face Matt Olson, Polanco made a spectacular stop of a ground ball, spun around and threw Olson out at first to preserve the tie.

But it only delayed, not prevented, Fowlers inevitable Gatorade bath at home plate.

New arrival

Juan Graterol was vacationing with his family in Miami on Friday, unwinding during a short break between the minor league season and his flight home to Venezuela next week to prepare for winter ball.

Then he got an unexpected call.

You never know whats going to happen in this game, said Graterol, a 29-year-old catcher who has 58 games of MLB experience with the Angels and spent July and August with the Twins Class AAA team in Rochester. Im really happy. I think my wife is even more excited than me. Its a new chapter in my career.

Graterol, who batted .284 in 34 games with the Red Wings, was summoned when it became clear that Mitch Garvers concussion had ended his season. He was added to the 40-man roster and told to fly to Oakland to serve as the Twins third catcher for the seasons final week.

 The Twins didnt learn anything new from a magnetic resonance imaging test on Miguel Sanos sore left knee, Molitor said, but the third basemans season isnt necessarily over. Its a little bit of a puzzle that we havent been able to solve yet, Molitor said.

 Molitor on Willians Astudillos versatility: Im surprised you guys havent tried to start the playing-all-nine-positions thing for him. Maybe use him as the opener, and then go from there?

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