DENVER (AP) — The Minnesota Twins were so ready to turn the page to playoff baseball. Hence, the decision to send an outfielder to the mound in an extra-inning game.
Brenton Doyle scored from second base on a wild pitch in the 11th inning by outfielder-turned-pitcher Jordan Luplow, and the Colorado Rockies rallied for a 3-2 win over the playoff-bound Twins on Sunday in the regular-season finale.
On deck for the the AL Central champion Twins: a best-of-three playoff series against Toronto starting Tuesday at Target Field.
“Yes, we want to win this game today,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But the more important situation to prepare for is the playoff game.
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“Our pitching staff is lined up and ready to go. We have everything that we’re looking for, that we need. It’s an exciting time.”
With Doyle starting the 11th inning on second, Luplow (0-1) went from outfielder to emergency reliever. As Luplow delivered a 63-mph slider to Brendan Rodgers, Doyle took off to steal third. It was an easy decision to keep on going once the baseball got through the pads of catcher Ryan Jeffers. A hustling Doyle easily slid head first into home.
“You don’t want to throw a position player in a game where it’s tied in extra innings. But at that point, it’s the reality of the situation. We don’t need to throw any more guys,” Jeffers explained. “We got what we needed.”
The Twins are searching for their first playoff win since Game 1 at New York on Oct. 5, 2004. The team hasn’t won a postseason series since beating Oakland in five games during the 2002 AL Division Series.
“We don’t have aspirations to win the division, to play in October. We want to do something special this year,” Jeffers said. “We know we have the team to do it.”
Sean Bouchard tied the game in the eighth with a two-out solo homer. Bouchard’s blast was the first pinch-hit homer by the Rockies this season. It came on a 3-2 delivery from Jorge Alcala, who was just reinstated from the 60-day injured list.
It was setting the stage for Doyle.
“Definitely fitting for this season — a wild ride and a wild ending,” Doyle said.
Gavin Hollowell (2-0) earned the win by escaping a bases-loaded jam in the 11th inning. He was one of eight pitchers the Rockies used on the afternoon.
Twins starter Bailey Ober tied a season high with nine strikeouts as he pitched 6 2/3 sharp innings. The 6-foot-9 right-hander allowed just one run on a homer by Nolan Jones.
Jones had a homer and a stolen base Sunday to become the first Rockies rookie to record a 20-20 season.
Reliever Brent Suter got the start for Colorado after Chase Anderson was a late scratch with a blister. Suter threw a perfect first before turning it over in the second to Connor Seabold, who gave up run-scoring singles to Edouard Julien and Alex Kirilloff in the inning.
The Rockies finished the season by losing 100 games for the first time in franchise history (59-103), but still drew 2,607,935 fans to Coors Field. They boast a young nucleus that features Jones and shortstop Ezequiel Tovar.
It gives the Rockies optimism they can make a leap like the Baltimore Orioles, who relied on talented youth to help them go from 110 losses in 2021 to AL East champions this season.
“I like the way our young guys play,” said Germán Márquez, who signed a $20 million, two-year contract with the Colorado Rockies in September, a deal that allows him to remain with the team as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. “We’re going to be in the playoffs in one or two years.”
The Twins placed veteran left-hander Dallas Keuchel on the 15-day injured list with a strained right calf. Alcala (strained right forearm) was reinstated off the 60-day injured list and outfielder Gilberto Celestino designated for release or assignment.
AROUND THE DIAMOND
Twins great and Hall of Famer Rod Carew turned 78 on Sunday. … Rockies OF Charlie Blackmon played in his 1,500th career game.
Twins: Gear up for the postseason, where right-hander Pablo Lopez is slated to start Game 1.
Rockies: Get ready for spring training, where they begin play Feb. 23 against Arizona.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb