Cuddyer, Bartlett lead Twins' comeback
Outfielder ties it with solo blast, while shortstop wins it on error
MINNEAPOLIS -- On the night the Twins were mathematically eliminated from postseason play, there was yelling and screaming throughout the locker room.
But the raucous behavior was due to concerns over whose Fantasy players were seeing action in the Monday Night Football game, rather than despair over the upcoming end of the baseball season.
But the fact that their Fantasy picks fared well was not the only reason the Twins had to celebrate -- they ended their seven-game losing streak and beat the Rangers, 5-4, in a back-and-forth series opener.
"I know our fans are frustrated with the team. But at least we've got a few smiles in the clubhouse tonight," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We won a ballgame and they are trying hard. It's hard to motivate yourself because we feel like we've let everyone down. But we're trying. The guys are still playing hard and there is still something to play for."
The Twins needed two runs in the bottom of the ninth to get the win. The first came from a Michael Cuddyer home run and the second came on just one of the handful of strange plays on the night.
With the game tied and Lew Ford on second base with two outs, Jason Bartlett hit a soft popup to short right-center field that looked like it would lead to extra innings. But the ball hit the heel of second baseman Ian Kinsler's glove and popped out and Ford came around to score.
"How about that?" Torii Hunter said. "I don't think I've ever seen something like that, maybe in Little League, but I don't think I've ever seen a game end like that. That was pretty funny."
Gardenhire was ejected for the second time in four games and the eighth time on the season for arguing a play at first base. Bartlett led off the eighth inning with a single to second baseman Ramon Vazquez. Vazquez's throw sailed past Brad Wilkerson and Bartlett tried to make the turn to go to second but Wilkerson held him up.
"I saw that he was there and I probably wasn't going to go [to second base], but I made the turn and he was in the way," Bartlett said. "I thought the rule was if I made the attempt and he obstructed me, then I get the base, but he said that the catcher was there and I wouldn't have made it. What if he throws it into center field and I make it to third base?"
Gardenhire argued that Bartlett should have been awarded second base, but first-base umpire Jeff Nelson disagreed and ultimately tossed Gardenhire.
"Either it was a screen in basketball or it was a great block in football with a little hands on, probably holding if you call it all the time," Gardenhire joked. "I didn't have my red flag so I couldn't throw it. That's just the way it is."
Bartlett eventually came around to score on a Hunter single, so the fact that he was not awarded the extra base became a moot point. The RBI was Hunter's 102nd of the season, tying his career high for a season set in 2003.
Gardenhire stressed that it was important to him that his players know he will continue to fight for them, even though their games have no postseason value.
"I'm not going to quit fighting for this baseball team. I'm not going to do any of those things," Gardenhire said. "That's just the way I am. I go out and I get in arguments and I get thrown out of the game. But it's all about competition. I'm going to be out there giving everything I have as a manager and get thrown out of the games."
No one in the clubhouse let the official word of elimination dampen their spirits.
"We've got a lot of prideful people, a lot of professional guys in this clubhouse that are not going to roll over by any means," Cuddyer said. "Yeah, we're accustomed to playing for a playoff spot at this time of the year. Yeah, four out of five years we've been there, but we still have prideful people and nobody is going to quit, roll over or give up."
Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.