Jorge Polanco, the Twins’ Mr. Clutch, delivers another walk-off win

Second baseman’s 11th-inning single completes 8-7 victory over Cleveland

Minnesota Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons (9) and third baseman Luis Arraez (2) pour water over second baseman Jorge Polanco (11) after the walk-off single by Polanco against the Cleveland Indians in the eleventh inning Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, at Target Field. Bruce Kluckhohn / USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins, it seems, can’t stop winning series. And Jorge Polanco, it seems, can’t stop leading his team to walk-off wins.

Even after losing their starting pitcher to injury in the second inning. Even after falling behind on Wednesday by three runs two separate times. Even after Alexander Colomé blew a save opportunity in the top of the ninth inning.

The Twins beat Cleveland 8-7 on Wednesday afternoon in the series finale at Target Field on the strength of a five-run fifth inning and a Jorge Polanco walk-off hit (yes, another one) in the 11th. With it, the Twins have now won four consecutive series — three against division-leading teams.

“He’s a clutch guy, man. He’s a clutch guy,” third baseman Luis Arraez said of Polanco. “I’m happy for him because he works hard and he’s killing it right now.”

For Polanco, the Twins’ Mr. Clutch, it’s his second walk-off of the series and third on the homestand. The Twins’ past three wins have all been Polanco walk-offs, so when the Twins (54-67) saw Polanco striding to the plate in that situation, they knew they were in good hands.


As manager Rocco Baldelli put it, “We got Polo coming up. I mean, what else would happen?”

The late-inning heroics were necessitated after Colomé gave up his first two runs since July 26 as Cleveland tied the game, 7-7. The game-tying run came around to score in the ninth when Colomé uncorked a wild pitch.

The Twins nearly won the game — twice — in the 10th inning, but stingy Cleveland (58-61) defense forced an 11th inning as third baseman Ernie Clement snagged a hard Arraez liner at third and center fielder Myles Straw robbed Ryan Jeffers of a potential game-winning hit. Nick Gordon, in the top of the 11th, returned the favor, laying out to rob Oscar Mercado and keep the score tied.

“They made some good plays. That’s going to happen. I think just not quitting at any point, keeping the energy going, that’s the guys playing, that’s the guys pitching, that’s the guys on the bench, that’s the staff, that’s everybody but you just keep plugging away,” Baldelli said. “If you do that and you keep trying to play some good baseball, good things can happen. You give yourself and opportunity, and that’s what we did.”

The Twins’ ability to do that set the stage for Polanco’s third walk-off in four days.

“He’s a special hitter,” first baseman Miguel Sanó said. “In those moments, he needs to take care of the team and he puts it on his back and he knows what he needs to do.”

Sanó played a big role, too, providing a big hit in the Twins’ five-run fifth inning; his double cleared Straw in center, bringing home two runs to tie the game, 7-7.

It was the second hit of the game for Sanó, who also demolished a Zach Plesac pitch an inning earlier, taking it 475 feet out to the top deck in center field. It was one of the furthest hit Twins home runs in the Statcast-tracking era.


The Twins collected six straight two-out hits to produce those five tallies in the fifth inning, their last runs until the 11th.

The day didn’t start out quite as pleasant for the Twins.

Starter Lewis Thorpe, called up on Wednesday to start in place of the injured Michael Pineda, appeared off from the start, the velocity on his four-seamer averaging just 87.8 mph. Thorpe left the game in the second inning alongside head trainer Michael Salazar after walking three batters. Baldelli said Thorpe has a shoulder strain and will be placed on the injured list.

Thorpe spent more than two months on the injured list with the same injury, throwing in four minor league games before being recalled by the Twins on Wednesday.

The injury places the Twins in a tricky situation, as they had use seven different relievers to get through Wednesday’s game and plan on going with a bullpen game started by John Gant on Thursday. It’s a conundrum that was at least made more palatable by the fact that Wednesday’s game ended with another walk-off hit from Polanco.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many late-inning, walk-off type wins in this period of time,” Baldelli said. “It’s pretty awesome. Those are normally some of the most memorable moments of your season. You have a handful of them every year. But what we’ve been doing lately has been pretty special and a hell of a lot of fun.”

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