Kubel saves Twins with sac fly in 12th

Kubel saves Twins with sac fly in 12th

MINNEAPOLIS -- Heading into the ninth inning against the Brewers on Saturday afternoon with a four-run lead, the Twins appeared well on their way to capturing another fairly routine victory at home.

Target Field has already proven to be a place of comfort for the Twins judging by their stellar record in their new ballpark, and the team was undefeated, 23-0, when leading after eight innings this season.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

But instead, with the largest crowd -- 39,152 -- in Target Field's short history on hand to witness it, the contest turned into a thriller.

It was one full of ups and downs, near misses and nail-biting moments for the Twins as they had to put together two scoring rallies late in the contest to secure an 8-7 victory in the 12th inning, when Jason Kubel's sacrifice fly scored Joe Mauer from third base to cap the 4-hour, 45-minute marathon.

"What looked like us being able to cruise for a win got real exciting," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The boys had to dig down a bit and they did, finally coming up with a win. A lot of crazy things happened there."

He wasn't kidding. The Twins loaded the bases three times over their final four innings before finally pushing the go-ahead run across in the 12th. Then there were leaping catches made up against outfield walls, web-gem double plays turned and enough drama to fill a week's worth of games.

But it all began with the Brewers taking a lead of their own in the ninth when things turned nightmarish for the Twins.

With the Twins leading, 6-2, left-hander Ron Mahay was called upon to start the inning and things quickly unraveled as he gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases with no outs.

That's when Gardenhire turned to closer Jon Rauch in what was now a save situation with the tying run at the plate. But two batters later, the game was tied.

Rickie Weeks hit a double off the wall in right-center field to score two runs, before Brewers center fielder and former Twins player Carlos Gomez singled to left field to drive in two more runs and knot the game, 6-6.

For Rauch, it was just his second blown save in 12 opportunities this season.

"I thought we'd be able to get through that and we just couldn't get it done," Gardenhire said of using Mahay to start the ninth. "Rauch came in a tough situation with the bases loaded. That's normal to go with someone else when it's a four-run lead. You don't want to use his bullets unless you have to."

It appeared that Rauch might work his way out of trouble and keep the game knotted, getting Ryan Braun to line out as second baseman Alexi Casilla -- who had replaced Orlando Hudson in the eighth due to a bruised right elbow -- made the diving catch before doubling up Gomez at first base. But Rauch followed the defensive gem with a two-out walk to Prince Fielder, who then scored on Casey McGehee's double to left field to give Milwaukee a 7-6 lead.

Although the Twins had led since scoring four runs off Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo in the first inning, there didn't seem to be any despair on the Twins' bench when that lead disappeared.

"I feel like all of us believed we were going to come back and win somehow, and our hitters came through," said Twins starter Kevin Slowey, who had given up two runs over 5 2/3 innings.

After back-to-back hits started the bottom of the ninth, Delmon Young hit a game-tying ground-rule double to left field. But the fact that the ball bounced into the stands likely prevented the winning run from scoring. And there would be plenty more opportunities missed before things were all said and done.

Jim Thome was brought in to pinch-hit for Trevor Plouffe, but with first base open he was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. After Nick Punto struck out, Denard Span hit a long fly ball to right field.

Immediately, Span raised his arm in the air as he ran to first base to celebrate what he and many others believed was the game-winning grand slam. Instead, the ball seemed to die in the air like so many others hit here this season and wound up being caught by Brewers right fielder Corey Hart at the base of the wall.

It was the first of two critical catches made by Hart over the final few innings.

In the 10th, it was Young who hit a liner to right field, but Hart made the leaping snag as he crashed into the wall and kept the contest going.

"There were a couple of other balls that probably could have been homers in a lot of other places too," Kubel said. "But we kept putting the pressure on them, kept getting guys on base and in scoring position and were able to get a couple runs across when we needed it."

As the contest dragged on, thanks in part to a pair of 3-6-3 double plays turned by some stellar play at first by Justin Morneau, both clubs wound up getting deep into their bullpens and had to start looking at other options.

While the Twins sent Tuesday's starter Scott Baker out to the bullpen in case of emergency, the Brewers actually had to turn to Manny Parra, who had been scheduled to start Sunday's contest vs. Minnesota.

Parra managed to get the Twins out 1-2-3 in the 11th inning, but in the 12th he found trouble. The right-hander walked Casilla. Mauer followed with his fourth hit of the day -- a single -- and Morneau drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. One out later, Kubel delivered the critical sacrifice fly to right field, and Mauer had no problem beating the wide throw to capture the win and bring the Twins' home record this season to 14-6.

"They made some big plays that maybe at the time didn't seem like they were that big but turned out to be huge," McGehee said. "It's kind of what they do -- it's Twins baseball. You know they're going to pitch, you know they're going to play defense, they're going to run the bases well and when they throw some hitting in there, they're pretty darn good."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.