Everything looked to be going the Pirates’ way. Jameson Taillon hadn’t allowed more than three runs in his last thirteen starts, while the Twins’ Jake Odorizzi had a 5.90 ERA over the same stretch, averaging fewer than five innings a start.
For awhile everything went according to plan. David Freese led off the second with a single followed by a walk to Josh Bell. Francisco Cervelli’s double to left center plated one run and another scored on Colin Moran’s grounder to the right side. It was perhaps an omen of what was to come when Josh Harrison was then called out on strikes by home plate umpire Joe West on a fastball nearly in the left-hand hitters batter’s box.
Taillon had been perfect through three innings. Nine up and nine down - but suddenly in the fourth couldn’t buy an out. Joe Mauer lined a single to left. Eddie Rosario lined a double into the right field corner. Jorge Polanco grounded a single to right, scoring one and then a second when Gregory Polanco seemed to ease up on his throw back to the infield. Jorge Polanco moved up on a ground out, then Max Kepler and another out later Jake Cave both lined singles, the last of which brought in the third run. 88, 98, 89, 91, 92. Only one ball hit hard, but everything falling in as the Twins picked up five of their seven hits off Taillon.
Meanwhile Odorizzi was in Cy Young form, retiring the Pirates in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings, with six of the nine hitters going down on strikes. Finally he was chased from the game by two out singles by Freese and Bell, the latter at 111 mph, but reliever Tyler Duffey got Cervelli swinging on a 3-2 pitch.
After Duffey had a 1-2-3 seventh, in the eighth Twins manager Paul Molitor went to lefty Taylor Rogers. He got Dickerson and Polanco to both go down swinging, sandwiched around a Marte double. With the tying run at second Molitor played the splits again, bringing in righty Matt Magill. Freese beat out a slow roller to short, Bell walked and with the bases loaded Cervelli again worked the count to 3-2, but ended the inning with a pop out to shallow center field.
Any thoughts of a last inning comeback attempt were squashed when i the bottom of the eighth Miguel Sano took Richard Rodriguez 403 feet to right center on a ball hit at 106 mph for a two-run homer that gave Minnesota their final margin of 5-2.
Taillon extended his streak of games allowing three or fewer runs to fourteen, earning a quality start in the process, but the Twins did all the necessary damage in that one inning.
At a point in the pennant race where every game is crucial, the loss dropped the Pirates record to 61-59, 8.0 games behind the division leading Chicago Cubs and 5.0 games out of the second Wild Card.
The short two-game series concludes Wednesday afternoon at 1:10 pm Eastern (noon local) as Chris Archer (4-5, 4.36) makes his third Pirates start. He’ll be faced by right-hander Jose Berrios (11-8, 3.66)