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CHICAGO — The Twins’ bullpen tightrope act in the later innings of Thursday afternoon’s game was a sight to behold.
Pushed and tested for four straight innings, the bullpen bent but did not break, holding strong long enough for the offense to collect the runs it needed in a wild 7-3 12-inning win over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“When you see guys not breaking and then the next guy comes in and does the same and you can basically look at the whole group of them down there … it’s an uplifting thing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
After watching Jhoan Duran, Jorge López, Brock Stewart and Emilio Pagán strand a combined nine runners — including one on third base in three of those innings — the bats, which had provided little help to that point, finally pulled through.
When a Jose Miranda groundball bounced past White Sox infielder Tim Anderson and into the outfield to lead off the 12th, Trevor Larnach, the automatic runner, raced home to score, breaking open a game that had been tied since the eighth inning.
Nick Gordon then greeted Chicago reliever Sammy Peralta, who was making his major-league debut, with a double to center, scoring one more run. The Twins added on with a bases-loaded walk and a Jorge Polanco single, scoring two more runs, putting the game out of reach and rewarding the bullpen for a job well done.
“I definitely wanted to redeem myself and put us in a better position,” said Gordon, who popped up a bunt attempt in the 10th inning. “I wasn’t able to get the job done there, so I definitely didn’t want to do that twice.”
The offensive outburst came after an 11th inning in which the Twins (18-14) went down swinging in order and a 10th inning in which they also were unable to advance their auto runner from second base.
The quiet offense was a day-long issue for the Twins, who began the game with a Max Kepler single and then did not record another hit against White Sox starter Lucas Giolito until the sixth inning. The only other hits the Twins collected through the first 11 innings were solo home runs — one from Carlos Correa in the sixth inning and another from Byron Buxton, which tied the score in the eighth.
“We didn’t string together the at-bats. We didn’t have the collective at-bats, to say the least, but to still go out there and pitch well, stay in the game and win a game where we’re not at our best offensively, it’s great, and it was necessary,” Baldelli said. “That’s what we needed to do to win, and we found a way there.”
The White Sox (10-22), meanwhile, could do little against Twins starter Pablo López, who rebounded from a pair of shaky starts by throwing seven strong innings and striking out eight in the no-decision. López gave up six hits in all, working often with traffic, but he was able to limit the damage against him. The only blemish in his day was a two-run homer to Eloy Jiménez in the third inning.
The Sox evidently found the Twins’ bullpen just as problematic, despite clogging the bases in the later innings, in part due to the five intentional walks the Twins opted to issue.
“You’ve got to manage the lineup and they’ve definitely got some guys you don’t want to let beat you, especially in that situation,” said Pagán, who picked up the win for his scoreless 10th inning. “It’s cool (Baldelli) showed the confidence in us to be able to get in the zone when we have to.”
The tensest inning was the 10th, in which the recently-called-up Brock Stewart managed to navigate around the automatic runner and a pair of intentional walks. Stewart fanned two batters to get out of the inning, including one, Hanser Alberto, who swung at a pitch that hit him.
The White Sox finished the day 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position, leaving 14 on base. That one hit came in the 12th inning off Jovani Moran after the game was well in hand.
“As a starter the main thing I want to do is give the boys a day off. Every time I take the mound I want the bullpen to have a day off,” Pablo López said. “But knowing that’s the kind of arms we have is real encouraging. We have arms to shut down any offense. We have arms to put people away when we need to, and it’s great. I was having fun watching the guys throw and execute those high-leverage pitches.”