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A walk-off win is a walk-off win. Even in the COVID-19 era. Even without the roar of the crowd. Even without the ability to celebrate with a mob of teammates.

Monday, the Twins were walk-off winners for the first time all year thanks to Nelson Cruz. The celebration was muted in comparison, but the players were still plenty excited after Nelson Cruz doubled in the ninth inning to bring home Jorge Polanco and give the Twins a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the series opener.

The rally in the ninth started when pinch hitter Polanco, leading off the inning, dropped a single into left field. Polanco reached second on a passed ball and third on a Luis Arraez flyout before Cruz brought him home.

Cruz’s double set off a socially distant celebration in which the team’s designated hitter stood near the first base line and was drenched with liquids while his teammates jumped around with their arms up near him.

That capped off the comeback victory for the Twins (8-2), who had fallen behind on the first pitch of Monday’s ballgame when Cole Tucker took Lewis Thorpe out of the park.

But with this team, opposing team’s leads only seem to last so long. And in the sixth inning, after quieting the Twins all night, the Pirates’ time was finally up when the Twins broke through with four runs to tie the game.

A Cruz single to right brought home the team’s first run of the game off Derek Holland, who, to that point, had only given up two hits. After a Miguel Sano walk, Max Kepler brought home two runs with a double over Tucker’s head in center that the outfielder had misplayed.

A wild pitch from Miguel Del Pozo that bounced in front of the plate, rolled to the backstop and popped up brought home Kepler to tie the game.

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Though the Twins weren’t able to do more damage in the inning, leaving the bases loaded, two quick, perfect innings from Matt Wisler kept the Twins in position to strike.

Thorpe, making a spot start, surrendered the home run to Tucker on the first pitch of the game. The Pirates (8-2) struck again off Thorpe in the second with three straight hits and in the fourth, Thorpe issued four walks and a double to produce the Pirates’ fourth run of the night.

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    LEADING OFF: Cubs Mills back on mound after no-hitter

    Next News:

    Twins Clinch 2nd Straight Playoff Spot, Beat Mills, Cubs 8-1

    By JOHN JACKSON, Associated Press

    CHICAGO (AP) — Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sanó and Josh Donaldson homered as the Minnesota Twins clinched a second straight postseason berth with an 8-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night.

    The Twins are guaranteed at least a wild-card berth. They trail the Chicago White Sox by three games in the AL Central with six games to play. The White Sox have eight games remaining.

    Coming off a no-hitter on Sunday against Milwaukee, Cubs starter Alec Mills (5-4) wasn’t nearly as sharp in this one, allowing four runs and six hits in six-plus innings. He struck out seven and walked one as Chicago's five-game winning streak ended.

    Rosario and Mitch Garver had a two-run pinch-hit single as Minnesota rebounded after dropping four of five on the current road trip against both Chicago teams.

    The Twins, who won the division last year, will make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2009-10.

    Minnesota starter Michael Pineda (2-0) permitted one run on four hits in five innings.

    After Mills struck out the first two batters of the game, Rosario homered on the first pitch he saw for a 1-0 lead. The Cubs tied it in the second on a RBI double by David Bote.

    In the sixth, Rosario hit an RBI single for a 2-1 lead.

    The Twins broke it open with a five-run seventh. Sano's leadoff homer — over the left-field bleachers and onto Waveland Avenue — made it 3-1. Max Kepler followed with a double to left to chase Mills.

    Jorge Polanco had an infield single against reliever Josh Osich, who then hit Marwin Gonzalez to load the bases. Donaldson, pinch hitting for Ehire Adrianza, hit a grounder to shortstop that Javier Báez bobbled. Báez picked the ball up and fired home, but the throw bounced and couldn't be handled by catcher Willson Contreras as Kepler scored.

    Garver, batting for Ryan Jeffers, followed with a two-run single to make it 6-1, and Byron Buxton capped the rally with an RBI single.

    Donaldson added a solo shot in the ninth.

    NO APOLOGIES

    Speaking with the media for the first time since being ejected after hitting a homer in Thursday's 4-3 loss at the White Sox, Donaldson said he didn't regret his actions. “I felt great about it,” he said in a Zoom call with reporters before the game.

    Donaldson said his issue with umpire Dan Bellino wasn't just ball and strike calls, but that Bellino didn't respond when asked where a pitch was.

    “At the end of the day, there's no accountability,” Donaldson said. “For the most part, they don't care. They want to get the game over with. The players are the only ones that can hold these guys accountable.”

    TRAINER'S ROOM

    Twins: DH Nelson Cruz was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch. The team didn't provide an immediate reason ... 2B Luis Arraez (left knee tendinitis) will play seven innings of a game at the team's alternate site at St. Paul each of the next two days. He'll be evaluated after that to see how his knee responds.

    Cubs: RHP Rowan Wick (left oblique strain) was placed on the 10-day Injured List and may be out for the rest of the season, according manager David Ross. Wick was 0-1 with a 3.12 ERA and four saves in 19 games. The 27-year-old has 20 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings ... LHP Andrew Chafin (left finger sprain) was activated from the IL. He was acquired from Arizona on Aug. 31.

    UP NEXT

    Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish (7-2, 1.86) starts the finale of the three-game series Sunday night looking to become the first 8-game winner in the NL. Righty José Berrios (4-3, 4.15) goes for the Twins.

    More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

    Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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