Twins top Rays thanks to Dozier’s walk-off grand slam

MINNEAPOLIS — Tempers flared and benches cleared twice as the Twins and Tampa Bay Rays slogged through a sticky, slow-moving Sunday afternoon, July 15, to close out the first half of the season.

In the end, the Twins got the last word and the 11-7 victory on Brian Dozier’s walk-off grand slam off Matt Andriese in the 10th inning.

“When you get in a tense game like that, both sides, the emotions run high and guys are fighting,” Twins first baseman Joe Mauer said. “They battled hard, we battled hard and sometimes you have those discussions. I was glad nothing happened out there and fans got to see a good baseball game.”

Claiming three out of four against the Rays, the Twins wrapped up a 9-2 homestand and remained 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians. Sunday’s game took four hours, 38 minutes to complete and featured three lead changes and a tie — all from the seventh inning on.

It was the 16th homer for Dozier, who had failed to get the ball out of the infield in eight tries the past two days. He connected on a 1-1 changeup after consecutive intentional walks to load the bases with one out.

Jake Cave’s double opened the 10th, followed by Mitch Garver’s sacrifice bunt.

“I’m proud of the way the guys fought,” Dozier said. “The fight in us — we kept coming back. The game was long. Everyone is tired and wants to get to the break, but we still had the mindset that we had a job to do, and that’s to win the game.”

The Twins appeared set to prevail after Eddie Rosario’s two-out, go-ahead single off Sergio Romo in the eighth inning, but Joey Wendle answered with a game-tying single off Trevor Hildenberger in the ninth.

Mauer’s four-pitch bases-loaded walk off Romo tied the game after Jesus Sucre put the Rays back in front with a two-run double off Hildenberger in the top of the eighth.

Dozier had just capped a four-run Twins rally in the seventh inning with a balk-inducing dance off third base against right-hander Diego Castillo when Rays third baseman David Robertson shouted at Eduardo Escobar from 100 feet away. Escobar, who had been hit with a pitch in his previous trip, seemingly objected to another close pitch at 101 mph.

Chirping ensued from both dugouts as Escobar walked slowly onto the field and continued the conversation. Ace right-hander Chris Archer came skipping out of the third-base dugout, leading the Rays charge as both benches and bullpens emptied.

No punches were thrown, but Escobar and Archer twice came within a few feet of each other as Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson held back the feisty third baseman.

“There were a lot of guys talking, but I think Archer was just trying to figure out what happened,” Gibson said. “I think Arch thought maybe Esco had said something when Esco didn’t really say anything. Once that cleared up, Arch was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ “

When play resumed Escobar struck out on the next pitch, throwing down his bat and helmet in frustration. When he continued to hear ribbing from the Rays dugout as he walked toward his position, the benches and bullpens emptied again.

Mauer eventually approached Archer for a low-key conversation that appeared to quell the disagreement, which resulted in only Escobar being ejected.

“I was just trying to see what was going on and calm everybody down,” Mauer said. “I know him pretty well. He shared some things and I did too, but I was just trying to get the guys back into baseball. Usually veteran guys do that, and he’s a veteran over there. I know a lot of people are going to talk about the two bench clearings, but that was a heck of a game.”

The Rays also were embarrassed by a pair of throwing mistakes on the same run-scoring grounder to third by Dozier in the seventh. Robertson made a diving stop in foul ground but made an ill-advised throw across the diamond to first baseman C.J. Cron.

When Cron tried to nab Rosario at third on the same wild play, the ball got away and the tying run scored with Dozier racing around to third. When Dozier goaded the rookie Castillo into his first career balk and danced his way across home plate, the Rays weren’t pleased.

Archer had barked at Rosario on Saturday when the Twins’ star tried to distract him in a similar spot.

“Yeah, well, they don’t really have a case,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “When you give a good baserunner like Dozier or Rosie an opportunity, it can cause a guy to flinch.”