Jose Miranda’s single completes another ninth-inning rally for Twins

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Jose Miranda may be relatively new to Minnesota after playing most of last season for the Twins’ Class AA affiliate in Wichita, but he’s not new to baseball. And he’s a good hitter.

So, he has heard a crowd invoke his name in a big situation before.

“But not as loud as this one,” the rookie infielder said Saturday after his pinch-hit single scored Alex Kirilloff to complete a ninth-inning rally for a 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Target Field.

With the game tied on a leadoff home run by Jorge Polanco, and Kirilloff standing on second after a double off the left-field wall, Miranda was announced as the pinch hitter for Gilberto Celestino, who had cut the Twins’ deficit to 3-2 while pinch-running for Gio Urshela.

As Miranda walked to the box to face hard-throwing Baltimore closer Jorge Lopez, most of the 20,618 in attendance greeted him with a heart chant of “Let’s go, Jose!” That might be intimidating for some young players, but not Miranda, who was the Twins’ minor league player of the year last season after batting .344 with 30 home runs between Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul.

“Oh no,” he said. “It feels great. Especially just helping the team win just like today. And then against a good pitcher like that, it feels awesome.”

Lopez came into this series with 13 saves and a 0.73 earned-run average in 32 appearances this season and averaging 98 mph on his four-seam fastball and sinker. In wins Friday and Saturday, the Twins roughed him up for four earned runs, two blown saves and two losses on six hits — including two home runs — in one-third of an inning.

Byron Buxton hit a two-run, walk-off home run off Lopez in a 3-2 win Friday night.

“It’s all on me. I’ve just got to figure it out tomorrow,” Lopez said. “These things are going to happen. It’s the first time it’s happened to me. I knew something was coming. I’ve got to figure it out. … They’ve got a really good lineup. They had a really good plan (for) me, and I couldn’t just command it where it should be.”

Polanco hit a game-tying homer off Lopez to start the ninth, a line drive over the left-center field fence, before Nick Gordon — who had homered in the seventh off starter Jordan Lyles — struck out looking. Kirilloff then doubled off the wall in left-center to set up Miranda’s game-winning single to left field.

“Sinker, 99 (mph),” Miranda said. “Pretty hard.”

Not hard enough. As Kirilloff scored the winning run, Miranda pointed to the emptying Twins’ dugout.

“He’s going to remember that one forever,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Twins starter Sonny Gray grinded through five innings and was charged with three runs on six hits and three walks. It could have been much worse.

“It seemed like they were always one swing away from breaking it open,” Gray said. But he found a way to limit the damage to one run in each of three innings. He left with a 3-0 deficit, but the Twins got a big day from their bullpen — four scoreless innings from Jharel Cotton and Emilio Pagan.

Cotton pitched three innings before giving way to Pagan in the ninth. Pagan (2-3) was recently taken from his late-inning leverage role after blowing four leads against Cleveland over 10 days. Nevertheless, he found himself protecting a one-run deficit in the ninth on Saturday and struck out two in a 1-2-3 inning to earn the win.

Cotton allowed one hit and a walk in his three innings of relief for Gray.

“I gave the team a chance,” he said, “and they came through. It was fun to watch.”

Certainly it was a big turnaround from the Twins’ series in Cleveland, where they lost three of five games over four days as the Guardians trimmed their American League Central lead to one game. The last two games were walk-off wins, the last on a 10th-inning home run.

Two losses to the Orioles, improving but still last in the AL East, would have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Twins, but they turned the tide late in each game.

“The swings in this game are pretty amazing. This game’s pretty great,” Baldelli said. “It’s also, you know, messed up at times, too, the way it can get you psychologically. But nights like yesterday and games like today are good reminders for all of us of what we’re capable of, and I think that that’s what these two days did for us after … Cleveland.”

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