By La Velle E. Neal III, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins on Friday faced a five-man infield twice in the late innings, which means the other team was pretty desperate.
The first time, Denard Span was a dead duck as he tried to score from third on a grounder in the ninth inning. The second time, Josh Willingham found a hole, slapping a single down the third-base line to score Darin Mastroianni with the winning run in an 8-7 victory over the Cubs in 10 innings.
Mastroianni entered the game batting .152 but singled and tripled before drawing a walk to lead off the 10th. Ben Revere, whose bunting is improving, sacrificed Mastroianni to second base, and Jamey Carroll reached on an infield single.
That was when the Cubs went to a five-man infield for the second time in two innings, but Willingham came through as the Twins improved to 8-2 over their past 10 games.
“We had plenty of chances,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “A lot of excitement and some big at-bats. Finally it works out for us.”
When the dust settled after this one, it was a little messy. Both teams made baserunning mistakes. Both missed plays in the field. Each bullpen leaked runs. And Alfonso Soriano belted two mammoth home runs, estimated at 431 and 440 feet. Soriano’s second homer was a two-run shot in the eighth to give the Cubs a 7-6 lead.
Willingham led off the ninth with a single off the left field wall, but the ball hit too hard for him to reach second. Justin Morneau then took three ugly swings at Shawn Camp pitches. The first two missed. The third sent a fly ball to right-center that carried to the wall and bounced off for an RBI triple, tying the score.
There were no outs and a man on third.
Denard Span, too sick to start the game, replaced Morneau at third. After Ryan Doumit struck out, the Cubs switched to a five-man infield, with Joe Mather coming in from left to play behind second. Chris Parmelee was intentionally walked.
Alexi Casilla, who pinch-ran for Trevor Plouffe in the seventh, tapped to second. Span ran on contact and was easily thrown out, and Brian Dozier flew out to right to end the ninth and send the game into extra innings.
“There’s some confidence out there,” Gardenhire said. “Guys are playing with confidence. Whether you are up or down, they feel like they can score some runs now. If our pitching gives us a chance we always feel like we can compete with people. We’re finding ways to win games later and we’re finding ways to get back in games.”
The Twins trailed 2-0 and 5-2 as righthander P.J. Walters, who helped stabilize the rotation last month when called up from Class AAA Rochester, had his second consecutive poor start and was lifted after five innings.
“I did not have good stuff tonight,” Walters said. “It was a good night to have a bad night.”
Dozier had an RBI single and Mastroianni hit a RBI triple in the sixth to tie the score at 5-5, then Doumit’s homer in the seventh gave the Twins a 6-5 lead. But Soriano hit a pitch from Glen Perkins into the third deck in left for a two-run homer as the Cubs took a 7-6 lead.
Ben Revere was 3-for-4 to lead the Twins’ 16-hit attack, an effort that ended with their second walk-off victory of the year.