MINNEAPOLIS — Brian Dozier wrapped up a wild back-and-forth finish with the game-winning grand slam for Minnesota.
After 3 1/2 months of setbacks and slumps, the Twins finally have some momentum heading into the All-Star break.
Dozier drove in five runs for the Twins, including the slam in the 10th inning on Sunday that delivered an 11-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
"We’re playing good baseball. We all need a break," Dozier said. "But I think hopefully we can pick up where we left off."
Jake Cave doubled to start the 10th against Matt Andriese (2-4), the ninth pitcher for the Rays, and moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Manager Kevin Cash ordered intentional walks on Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario to load the bases and brought left fielder Joey Wendle in for a five-man infield. Dozier squashed the strategy with his 16th home run of the season and the fourth walk-off win for the Twins.
"Pick your poison," Cash said. "It didn’t work, obviously."
Alan Busenitz (3-0) got the last four outs for the Twins, who finished 9-2 on their season-long homestand to follow a 1-8 road trip. The Rays totalled 54 hits over the four-game series but won only once.
Wendle’s two-out single in the ninth off Trevor Hildenberger tied the game. Jesus Sucre, who went 3 for 5 with three RBIs, hit a two-run double off Hildenberger in the eighth for a 6-5 lead.
Rosario, who was 3 for 5, had an RBI single after Mauer’s bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth. Cave was thrown out at the plate on that play, a close call reviewed and upheld that the Twins believed was wrong.
The Rays led 4-1 until the seventh. With two outs and two on, Rosario sneaked a single into left field through the shift-vacated hole to cut the deficit to 4-2. Dozier greeted Diego Castillo with an RBI single by beating out a deep ground ball to third, and first baseman C.J. Cron’s relay throw back to third skipped past Daniel Robertson for an error that let the Twins tie the game.
Then Dozier made Castillo flinch for a balk call, taking an animated jog down the line to the plate in hand-clapping celebration of the go-ahead run.
Eduardo Escobar was batting during the balk. Two bench-and-bullpen-emptying arguments later , Escobar was ejected. Plenty of profanity was exchanged before and during the shouting matches, but they were free of shoves and punches. The whole thing, ultimately, was mostly one big misunderstanding.
"I’m very respectful with everybody around the league. I don’t fight with anybody," Escobar said.
Sucre blamed Twins reliever Ryan Pressly for falsely accusing Castillo of throwing at Escobar, who said he had no problem with the 101 mph sinker that buzzed by his feet after Dozier scored. Escobar said his beef was with Robertson, who yelled at him to return to the box and stop staring at Castillo. Escobar started toward him with his own choice words and angry gestures, which brought everyone in uniform to the infield for the first not-so-cordial gathering.
"Escobar is a good dude, man. We talk all the time at third base. The guy likes Fogo de Chao. I like Fogo de Chao," Robertson said, adding: "If someone was yelling at me, I’d probably yell back."
Escobar struck out, and as Robertson ran by him to the dugout he resumed airing his grievances. That triggered the second bench clearing. Rays pitcher Chris Archer, who was on the mound on Saturday when Rosario unsuccessfully tried to lure him into a balk with a shift-vacated third base, was among the most animated in the scrums. The Twins weren’t sure why there would’ve been an issue with such a strategy.
"That’s part of the risks you take," manager Paul Molitor said.
Molitor summoned closer Fernando Rodney to replace starter Fernando Romero for the last two outs of the fifth. New-age strategy? No, Rodney had a flight to catch so the Dominican Republic native could be in Miami on Monday for an immigration hearing.
Ryne Stanek took his 12th turn as the opener, the role the Rays have employed 19 times this season since creating it to maximize matchups for their relievers. He left with a 3-1 lead after two innings.
All eight Rays batters in the three-run second hit ground balls toward second base, first base or in between. Five in a row went for two-out singles off Romero.
Rays: Cash said he’s bracing for a DL stint and extended absence for catcher Wilson Ramos, because of the pulled left hamstring that will cost him his first starting assignment at the All-Star Game.
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana pitched 5 2/3 innings for Triple-A Rochester on Sunday. Molitor said it is "very possible" Santana will make another rehab start before joining the rotation, about 6 1/2 months after surgery on his middle finger.
Rays: RHP Nathan Eovaldi pitches the series opener against Miami on Friday, and RHP Dan Straily takes the mound for the Marlins.
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson takes the mound to start the series at Kansas City on Friday, opposite Royals LHP Danny Duffy.