“It’s a cruel and random world, but the chaos is all so beautiful.” - Hiromu Arakawa
This game. I have watched a lot of sports, for an awfully long time, and there are only a handful of games that stick in my mind as exemplars of the chaos of sports. Two teams throwing bombs at each other, while fans watch in awe wondering how the game could possibly end. The Texas-USC BCS National Championship game. Oklahoma-Boise State at the Fiesta Bowl. The Arizona Cardinals-Green Bay Packers 2010 Wild Card Game. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football in 2020.
I am sure there are other baseball games that deserve this kind of rarified air. But honestly, this one sucked all the oxygen out. When I think back-and-forth momentum swings, great plays, and heart-palpitating baseball, this is it. Other games on the PSA list stand out for their own reasons, but this one is unique for me. So how did we get to 14-12 Yankees? Brace for impact.
Date of Game: July 23, 2019
Final Score: Yankees 14, Twins 12 (10)
Game MVPs: Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks
The Yankees’ dominance of the Twins is one of the constants of my adult life. Since 2003, New York is 100-38 against Minnesota, including the playoffs. And when the postseason rolls around, the Yankees have defeated the Twins in 13 straight contests. So every time I watch a Yankees-Twins game when it looks like Minnesota might pull it out, I wonder if this is finally when the worm turns.
This contest started the way one might expect a Yankees-Twins game to begin. In the top of the first inning, with two runners on, game co-MVP Didi Gregorius first announced his presence. The Yankee shortstop ambushed the first pitch from Twins starter Kyle Gibson and drove it into center field for a two-bagger. When the dust settled, the Yankees were out to an early 2-0 lead and it looked like déjà vu all over again.
But after that… it seemed like Minnesota was done with being treated like the proverbial 98-pound weakling. In the bottom half of the second, the Twins cut the lead in half on an RBI single by Luis Arraez. The next inning, they took the lead. Leading off the frame, Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz both ambushed Yankees starter Domingo Germán with solo shots to put the Twins in front 3-2.
Any doubts Minnesota was in it to win it were dispelled one stanza later as they positively bludgeoned Germán. Two runs had already crossed the plate, handing the Twins a 5-2 lead, when Miguel Sanó came to the dish with two runners on. I’m not normally one to link the other team’s highlights, but Sanó was a monster this night. And this won’t be the last time he tormented the Yankees.
When the dust finally settled at the end of the fourth, the Twins were up by six runs and the Yankees were into their bullpen. But Sir Didi was not about to let New York meekly surrender to their longtime punching bag. With two runners on in the top of the fifth, Gregorius matched Sanó, ambushed a 95-mph first pitch fastball, and smashed a three-run dinger of his own, to cut the Twins lead in half, to 8-5.
Minnesota managed to scrape one run back in the bottom of the fifth off David Hale, who came into the game to staunch the bleeding in the fourth. But after that run scored, making the game 9-5 Twins, Hale and Tommy Kahnle valiantly held down the Twins lineup, giving the Yankees a chance to continue coming back.
And in the eighth inning, the Yankees came back, catalyzing the chaos that defined the end of this contest. After Mike Tauchman doubled in a run, Aaron Judge doubled in two runs of his own. 9-8 Twins, but the Bronx Bombers, or at least one of them, were not done yet. Up to the plate with two ducks on the pond stepped Gregorius, already with a dinger and five RBI on the night.
And once again, Didi came through when the Yanks needed him, this time with a towering two-run double to give the good guys their first lead since Gregorius cashed in two runs back in the first inning. 10-9 Yankees.
To Minnesota’s credit, they refused to give up. In the bottom half of the frame, Sanó continued murdering baseballs. This time, setup man Zack Britton was the giant slugger’s victim. On a 2-1 pitch, Sanó unloaded. And the ball soared deep into the night to restore the Minnesota lead. 11-10.
Now the Yankees found themselves down to their final three outs, and Gregorius, their hero to this point in the night, would not find himself at the dish in the ninth inning. But with two out and Mike Tauchman on the bases, a new hero stepped up. Down to the final out, with the Twins sitting at a 92 percent WinExp, Aaron Hicks began his late-game tour de force.
Boom. After Hicks turned around a 97-mph fastball to give the Yankees a 12-11 lead with Aroldis Chapman looming for the ninth inning, the game was surely over. Right. Right? Chaos had other plans this night. Specifically, that Chapman would lose the strike zone. Three walks and a sacrifice fly later, the game was all knotted back up at 12. Chapman escaped with the tie intact, but now it was off to bonus cantos.
In the top of the tenth, the Yankees put two more runs across, on an RBI single and a run-scoring wild pitch. It was 14-12 for the good guys and it was up to Adam Ottavino to try and seal the victory for the Yankees.
But it is a random and cruel world. Ottavino was marginally better than Chapman on the night. Like his predecessor, No. 0 had a proclivity for the free pass. But he did have the decency to get two outs without any runs scoring. After he walked the bases full, however, Aaron Boone went to Chad Green to try and get the final out in the form of Max Kepler. Kepler worked the count to 2-1.
On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, he smashed a screaming line-drive into the gap that looked like it would almost certainly win the game for the Twins. When all hope seemed lost though, Hicks, our other co-MVP, came soaring into the frame. Our center fielder and former Twin laid out, flew horizontally across the field, and somehow managed to snare the final, dramatic out of one of the greatest baseball games anyone has likely ever seen. The worm did not turn for Minnesota.
I’ve tried. I’ve attempted to use my paltry words to recap and summarize this amazing game. But pictures speak louder than words and video is even better than that. So here’s the supercut of the game of the year from 2019.