Left-hander Devin Smeltzer will take the mound as the Minnesota Twins try to complete a three-game sweep of the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Sunday in Minneapolis.
If the events of the past week are any indication, the fans best stick around until the final at-bat.
After getting walked-off in back-to-back losses at Cleveland, Minnesota rebounded to win the first two games against Baltimore in walk-off fashion.
Byron Buxton’s two-run homer gave the Twins a 3-2 victory in Friday night’s opener. Rookie Jose Miranda singled home Alex Kirilloff from third with one out in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win on Saturday afternoon.
The Twins are the first team in American League history to follow up consecutive walk-off losses with back-to-back walk-off wins in the same season, according to Stats by STATS.
“I like walk-off wins,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I don’t care who you are or what you’re doing, if you like baseball and your team is winning like this … there’s nothing more exhilarating than someone putting a swing on the ball and making something happen and winning a ballgame.
“It feels like every game we’ve played for a while has kind of come to a conclusion with a lot of cheering and a lot of excitement on one side of the field. We’ll take these. That’s two (wins) in a row right now.”
Baltimore was 29-0 this season when taking a lead into the ninth inning before suffering the back-to-back walk-off losses to the Twins.
Orioles closer Jorge Lopez hadn’t allowed a home run in 37 previous innings before Buxton and Jorge Polanco, who led off the ninth Saturday with a 425-foot drive into the bullpen in left-center to tie it 3-3, went back-to-back over a four-pitch span in the two games.
“He’s just had a couple tough games in a row,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said of Lopez, who had converted 13 of his 15 previous save chances entering the series. “He’s had an unbelievable first half … and he’s just had two tough games. It’s going to happen. Long season. He’s going to bounce back.”
Hyde said Lopez would have the day off on Sunday but would stay in the closer’s role.
“This guy has had an All-Star first half,” Hyde said. “He made a bad pitch on Buxton last night after a real tough at-bat against a really good hitter. Today he just got the ball up a little bit to Polanco and just wasn’t as sharp. He’s been incredible all year.”
Right-hander Tyler Wells (6-4, 3.23 ERA), a Round 15 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft by Minnesota, will face his old team for the fourth time since being picked up by Baltimore in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft. He is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three career appearances and one start against the Twins.
Wells had a 1.97 ERA in June and has won four consecutive starts and five of his last six. He comes in off a 9-2 victory at Seattle on Monday during which he allowed one run on one hit over five innings while striking out three.
He’ll be opposed by Smeltzer (4-1, 2.86), who will be facing the Orioles for the first time in his career. He made his last two starts against Cleveland and allowed just one run on seven hits over 12 innings during that span while walking none and striking out 12.
–Field Level Media