Wild walk-off: Twins tighten grip on Card 01 Sep 17

MINNEAPOLIS — It was yet another show of resilience from the red-hot Twins, who are surging into September after one of the best months in club history. After trailing by a run in the ninth, Max Kepler served as the hero, as he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give the Twins a 5-4 walk-off win over the White Sox on Thursday at Target Field. It helped notch the team’s third walk-off of the season, and it completed a three-game sweep over Chicago to extend Minnesota’s win streak to four games.

Minnesota now has a 1 1/2-game lead over the idle Angels for the second spot in the American League Wild Card race, and it trails the Yankees by one game for the No. 1 spot. The Twins (70-63) now have at least 70 wins by Sept. 1 for the first time since 2010, and they won 20 games in August for the first time since 1967. They went 20-10 despite being sellers at the Trade Deadline, and they ended the month in an unusual fashion with just the second walk-off hit-by-pitch in club history.

“I’ve had three, and the last one I had against Cleveland was on an error, so they come in all different shapes and forms,” Kepler said with a smile about his game-winner. “A walk-off is a walk-off, so I’ll take it. I tried to get out of the way, but I would’ve regretted it if I did get out of the way.”

Ehire Adrianza began the rally with a pinch-hit single, and he came around to score the tying run on an RBI single by Eddie Rosario. Three batters later, Kepler was plunked by White Sox right-hander Juan Minaya with the bags full to send Target Field into a frenzy. It was the first walk-off hit-by-pitch by the Twins since Paul Molitor was hit in the bottom of the 10th on May 1, 1996, against Kansas City.

“I don’t remember it,” Molitor said with a laugh.

Kepler spoiled Alen Hanson’s late-inning heroics. Hanson hit a ninth-inning solo shot to break a 3-3 deadlock, as he launched a 1-0 fastball from closer Matt Belisle over the right-field wall. According to Statcast™, Hanson’s third homer of the season went an estimated 390 feet with an exit velocity of 100.2 mph. It was Hanson’s first home run since July 26 and just the second homer hit off Belisle by any player over the past two months.

“He got a pitch that he could drive, was able to put it out over the right-field wall,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. “I wish we would have been able to score a few more runs for him. Just wasn’t meant to be.”

Because of the late-game dramatics, neither starter factored into the decision despite each lasting six frames. Minnesota right-hander Bartolo Colon was charged with three runs on 10 hits while recording a season-best eight strikeouts and no walks. Chicago righty Miguel Gonzalez notched his fifth straight quality start, as he allowed three runs on seven hits with five punchouts and two free passes.

The White Sox struck first with a pair of runs in the second on an RBI single by Rob Brantlyand an RBI double via Adam Engel, which marked their first advantage of the series. Yolmer Sanchez drove in another run in the fourth on a base knock. Meanwhile, the Twins scored a pair of runs in the fifth on consecutive doubles by Jorge Polanco and Kepler, while Zack Granite delivered an RBI single in the second.