MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nelson Cruz’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Minnesota Twins a 5-4 victory Monday night over the Pittsburgh Pirates for their fourth straight win.
Cruz, who knocked in two runs to raise his season total to 14 RBIs, drove a 1-1 fastball from Pirates reliever and former Twins draft pick Nick Burdi (0-1) over the head of center fielder Cole Tucker with runners at second and third and one out. Jorge Polanco started the ninth with a single, moved up on a passed ball and advanced again on a flyout by Luis Arraez.
As Polanco crossed the plate, the Twins leaped out of their dugout to surround Cruz with socially distant congratulations. He pantomimed high-fives, and one teammate squirted a dollop of hand sanitizer onto his batting gloves.
“Boring. It’s no fun. Well, I guess, it is what it is,” Cruz said of the virus-restricted celebration. “Hopefully next year we celebrate the good way.”
The Pirates (2-8), who lost their fifth consecutive game and have the worst record in the major leagues, put a runner on against Twins closer Taylor Rogers (1-0) but were unable to convert.
Tucker homered on the first pitch of the night while batting leadoff for the first time in his career for the Pirates, who squandered a 4-0 lead.
“Typical Twins. We battle. We battle,” Cruz said.
Derek Holland had a masterful start going for Pittsburgh, with just two singles allowed over the first 18 batters he faced, but Cruz drove in a run with a single and Max Kepler hit a two-out, two-run double to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Miguel Del Pozo relieved Holland and issued three straight walks, allowing Kepler to score the tying run on a wild pitch. Left fielder Bryan Reynolds made a sprawling catch of a sinking line drive by Ehire Adrianza to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Holland matched the longest start for the Pirates this season with 5 2/3 innings, twice each by him and Joe Musgrove. The Pirates are five days into a 17-day stretch without an off day.
Tucker, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2014, started the game by sending left-hander Lewis Thorpe’s 88 mph fastball into the bleachers in left-center where some of the Pirates relievers sat to socially distance from the rest of the bullpen. Richard Rodriguez raised his cap in vain to try to catch the ball, as the long-haired Tucker trucked around the bases with his thick, dark curls bouncing beneath his helmet and he pointed animatedly at his teammates in the dugout.
Thorpe, making his first start of the season for the Twins, lasted four innings. He walked four, all in the fourth, when Erik González hit an RBI double for a 3-0 lead. Phillip Evans added an RBI single in the fifth against Jorge Alcala, a run made possible when Josh Bell moved up on a passed ball by catcher Mitch Garver.
Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton returned to Minnesota, where he was the bench coach for the last two years, including the 2019 season under rookie manager and close friend Rocco Baldelli, but COVID-19 prevention protocols kept the socializing to a minimum. Twins clubhouse staff left him a bottle of high-end rye bourbon for a welcome-back gift.
Pirates: RHP Michael Feliz was moved from the 10-day injured list to the 45-day injured list, with a strained forearm and elbow. RHP Yacksel Rios was added to the roster to fill Feliz’s bullpen spot. The Pirates have seven pitchers currently on their injured lists.
Twins: 3B Josh Donaldson (calf tightness) missed his third straight game. … RHP Jake Odorizzi (upper back tightness) threw a bullpen and could come off the injured list to join the rotation by this weekend, Baldelli said. … LHP Rich Hill (shoulder fatigue), limited to one start so far, was placed on the injured list after the game.
Pirates: Musgrove (0-2, 4.76 ERA) will start on Tuesday afternoon. The Pirates didn’t score any runs while he was on the mound in either of his first two turns.
Twins: RHP José Berríos (0-1, 7.00 ERA) will pitch the matinee to finish the two-game series, before the teams travel to Pittsburgh for another pair of games. Berríos needed 96 pitches to finish five innings in his last start.
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