The Minnesota Twins didn’t have a lead the entire game Friday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays, but that didn’t stop them from winning in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth.
Losing 3-2 and down to the last out of the game, Matt Wallner crushed a three-run walk-off home run that just stayed fair to put the home team Twins over the visiting Rays 5-3. The homer came off of relief pitcher Deck McGuire. The two Twins on base, Tomas Telis and Trevor Larnach, both reached on walks.
It came as no surprise that the team affectionately dubbed “Bomba Squad” after last season’s obliteration of the MLB single-season home run record was able to win in such a way in this spring training game.
The Rays went ahead early on a solo shot by Joey Wendle off of Twins’ starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin in the second inning. Tampa Bay followed it up with a run by Mike Brosseau in the next inning. Brosseau reached base on a single into center field, advanced to second on a single by Lucius Fox, then to third on a walk drawn by Randy Arozarena, and finally made it home on a ground ball from Ji-Man Choi.
Minnesota answered in the bottom of the fifth with a Max Kepler RBI single into right field off of relief pitcher Jose Alvarado. Kepler drove in Alex Kirilloff who reached base on an infield single and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch.
The Rays tacked on their third and final run in the top of the sixth after some impressive baserunning by Arozarena. He singled, stole second, then raced home on a heads-up play off a wild pitch from reliever Trevor May.
In the seventh inning, the Twins again came within one run off a homer from Larnach.
McGuire was put in the game for the Rays to start the bottom of the ninth and close it out but had the opposite effect. He allowed back-to-back walks that put the tying and go-ahead runs on base with no outs. A brief visit to the mound was followed by a fly out to deep center and a strikeout. Twins’ fans began filing out, fearing all was lost until Wallner walked it off with his shot to right field.
Starting pitcher for the Rays, right-hander Yonny Chirinos finished with 3IP/2H/0R/2K.
Righty Chacin finished with 3IP/3H/2R/2K/1BB.
McGuire received the loss for the Rays while Edwar Colina, who pitched the top of the ninth, got the win for the Twins.
The Twins’ pitchers excelled, throwing 14 strikeouts between the seven players who took the mound during the game.
The Rays put together half that amount of strikeout between their six pitchers.
For Tampa Bay, Brosseau and Arozarena both finished 1-for-2 with a run.
For Minnesota, Kepler finished 2-for-3 with a double and RBI single. Kirilloff was 2-for-3 with two singles and a run. Larnach was 1-for-1 with two runs (one on his own home run) and a walk. Wallner was 1-for-2 with his 3-RBI walk-off bomb.
The Twins, now 6-4 for the spring, go to Lakeland Saturday to play the 6-6 Detroit Tigers.
The Rays, now 8-5, return to Port Charlotte on Saturday to take on the 7-5 Baltimore Orioles.