Max Kepler delivers 10th-inning walkoff single as Twins outlast Tigers 6-5

Josh Donaldson (20) of the Minnesota Twins throws the ball to first base to get the out on Derek Hill of the Detroit Tigers in the third inning at Target Field on Monday, July 26, 2021, in Minneapolis. (David Berding/Getty Images/TNS)
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Christina Long Star Tribune (TNS)

Alexander Colome had pitched not all that badly for the Twins since losing the closer job in April.

Forced into a ninth-inning save situation Monday night, though, Colome faltered again. It didn’t cost the Twins a victory, though, as Max Kepler delivered a 10th-inning RBI single to beat the Tigers 6-5 at Target Field.

After Caleb Thielbar pitched a scoreless top of the 10th inning, the Twins opened the bottom of the inning with starting pitcher Kenta Maeda as the bonus baserunner — Willians Astudillo had made the final out of the ninth, but in what was now the pitcher’s spot in the batting order.

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Maeda didn’t advance when Miguel Sano struck out and Jake Cave lined out, but after Andrelton Simmons walked, Kepler delivered a walkoff single to right-center.

Colome hadn’t appeared in a ninth-inning save situation since April 21, his seventh appearance in a Twins uniform, when he gave up a tying run in the ninth and then three unearned runs in the 10th in a 13-12 loss at Oakland. He finished April 1-3 with an 8.31 ERA in nine games, earning two saves in five opportunities.

Colome had pitched better since then, albeit largely in lower-leverage situations, with a 3.25 ERA in his past 29 appearances. But he was forced into duty in the ninth inning Monday night when Taylor Rogers had to depart because of a sprained left middle finger only five pitches into his outing.

Colome entered with a full count to Jeimer Candelario and gave up a single to the Detroit third baseman. Colome struck out Eric Haase, but pinch hitter Robbie Grossman then smacked his 16th home run of the season to tie the score.

Twins starter Michael Pineda retired 11 consecutive batters before giving up a single to former teammate Jonathan Schoop, followed by a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera in the top of the sixth inning. That tied the score at 2-2, but Brent Rooker promptly untied it in the bottom of the inning with his third home run of the season and second in as many days, a 460-foot bomb to the third deck in left field. It was the second-longest homer by a Twins player this year, a foot shorter than a home run from Trevor Larnach.

Jorge Polanco then walked, and Jose Cisnero came into replace Detroit starter Matt Manning. Donaldson hit Cisnero’s second pitch 446 feet to center field for a two-run homer, his 16th of the season.

Pineda struck out six and gave up five hits in his six innings of work. Tyler Duffey gave up a home run to Eric Haase to start the seventh but finished the inning with no further damage. Hansel Robles pitched a scoreless eighth.

In his first start at Target Field since May, catcher Mitch Garver made his presence felt. He was 2-for-3 with two doubles.Garver, who had been out because of a groin injury, returned July 19 at Chicago but then was placed on the paternity list for the birth of his son, Gamble. He returned to the active roster Sunday.

The Twins got on the board first in the bottom of the second when Garver doubled to right field, scoring Donaldson from first base. Garver doubled again his next time up and was driven in on a single by Miguel Sano in the bottom of the fourth to make it 2-0.

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