Rays journal: Twins grand slam ends heated game

Rays and Twins meet in a bench-clearing argument as tempers flared after a balk call in the seventh inning on July 15, 2018. (Associated Press)
Rays and Twins meet in a bench-clearing argument as tempers flared after a balk call in the seventh inning on July 15, 2018. (Associated Press)
Published July 15 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — That the Brian Dozier walkoff grand slam in the 10th inning that beat the Rays 11-7 was only part of the drama probably tells you all you need to know about Sunday's 4½-hour plus roller coaster ride, which included two benches-clearing incidents with the Twins.

"A lot of ups and downs,'' losing pitcher Matt Andriese said. "Kind of at a loss for words.''

The ending, which sent the Rays into the four-day All-Star break 49-47, unfolded like this:

Andriese, the ninth and last available Rays pitcher, gave up a leadoff double. Manager Kevin Cash intentionally walked Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario to load the bases, and brought Joey Wendle in from leftfield to stage a five-man infield. And Andriese, "with no room for error,'' threw three straight changeups, the last of which Dozier blasted into the leftfield seats.

And that was the simple part.

The seventh inning alone was a novella, as the Rays blew a 4-1 lead, with the go-ahead run scoring, of all ways, on a Diego Castillo balk, with Dozier prancing home.

3B Daniel Robertson was involved heavily.

In part with his play, making a diving stop but a bad decision to throw across the diamond, leading to an errant return throw by 1B C.J. Cron.

And in part with his words, his exchanges with Twins 3B Eduardo Escobar leading to the benches and bullpens twice
clearing, with words exchanged but not much more.

"It was pretty heated,'' Robertson said.

Tempers calmed but action remained intense on a steamy afternoon.

The Rays went back ahead in the eighth on a two-run double by Jesus Sucre. Then the Twins went back ahead in their half, Sergio Romo walking in the tying run and allowing a single for the go-ahead. A strong throw from CF Kevin Kiermaier and a good tag by Sucre — and maybe some good fortune that the replay crew in New York didn't have a clear enough angle for an overturn — kept it 7-6. And then down to their last out, the Rays tied it when Wendle singled in Robertson, who had singled and stole his first base of the season.

"Probably one of the more entertaining games of the year for the fans,'' Cash said.

Hot stuff

According to the Rays, the benches/bullpen-clearing incidents stemmed from the Twins' Escobar talking and acting like he thought Castillo was throwing at him, and players on the Twins bench, including RH reliever Ryan Pressly, yelling at the Rays rookie reliever, and Robertson leading the Rays' defense.

Robertson said Escobar was glaring at LHP Ryan Yarbrough when he got hit earlier, then did so more emphatically when Castillo threw a pitch at his feet.

"There was already a lot of chatter. The balk happened right before that. Everybody was yelling at each other,'' Robertson said. "He was looking up at our pitcher again. I told him, 'Quit staring at our pitcher. No one is trying to hit you. Just get back in the box and hit.' And then he kind of came back at me.''

Twins manager Paul Molitor said, "I think a couple of their guys, they were taunting 'Esco' a little bit, and he reacted."

With RHP Chris Archer and Carlos Gomez, who raced in from rightfield, leading the Rays, the teams squared off but order was restored.

Castillo then ended the inning by striking out Escobar, who started barking again with Robertson. Both sides raced back onto the field. Escobar was ejected, but that was about the only issue.

Escobar said he had no issue with Castillo: "I never said anything to the pitcher or the dugout. I got upset and frustrated with Robertson. … I didn't know why he was yelling at me."

"In the end,'' Robertson said, "it was probably a misunderstanding.''

Quote of the day

"He's a good dude. We talk all the time at third. Guy likes Fogo de Chao (Steakhouse). I like Fogo de Chao."
— Robertson, prefacing his comments on how Escobar initiated the benches-clearing issues.


RHP Andrew Kittredge was optioned to Triple-A Durham after the game. … 3B Matt Duffy was scratched from the original lineup due to concern over the right ankle he twisted on a swing Saturday, but he came in later to pinch-hit and play third. … RHP Ryne Stanek worked two innings as the opener, his streak of nine straight scoreless starts ending with a second-inning run. … LHP Hoby Milner, acquired Saturday night from Philadelphia, arrived just before game time and made his Rays debut in the third. … LHP Jonny Venters (hamstring) is slated to throw a simulated game Monday in Port Charlotte and could be back by the end of the month.