GOTW: 7.25.87 – Minnesota Twins (53-45) @ Toronto Blue Jays (56-40)

Saturday July 25, 1987
Exhibition Stadium
Toronto, ON

To say that the Twins struggled against the Blue Jays in the mid 1980’s would be an understatement. From 1984-1987, the Twins record against the Blue Jays was 12-36. Through the first 10 games between the two teams in 1987, the Twins had won only two games. At one point between 1986 and 1987, the Twins lost 10 straight at the hands of the Blue Jays. With that history in mind, it seemed like quite a victory when the Twins split a four-game series with Toronto at the Metrodome in mid-July. Still, playing at Exhibition stadium was a daunting task for the first place Twins, who dropped the first two games of the four-game series.

Thanks to the fact that Oakland was struggling a bit as well, the Twins were still two games up despite the losses. The feeling was, however, that the team needed to get wins, and had to overcome their recent difficulties north of the border.

   Minnesota Twins               Toronto Blue Jays                    
1. D Gladden            LF    1. T Fernandez          SS
2. M Davidson           CF    2. L Moseby             CF
3. K Puckett            DH    3. R Mulliniks          3B
4. G Gaetti             3B    4. J Barfield           RF
5. G Larkin             1B    5. F McGriff            DH
6. T Brunansky          RF    6. E Whitt              C
7. T Laudner            C     7. W Upshaw             1B
8. S Lombardozzi        2B    8. R Leach              LF
9. G Gagne              SS    9. G Iorg               2B 

   L Straker            P        J Cerutti            P

Things didn’t look good early for the Twins, who wouldn’t have been blamed had they collectively thought “here we go again”. After being held scoreless for two innings by Les Straker, the Blue Jay bats struck in the third. Fred McGriff’s three-run home run capped off a four-run inning that started with two consecutive walks issued by Straker. A 4-0 deficit was big, though it probably seemed even larger considering the recent history between the teams.

To the Twins’ credit, there was no quit early. The very next time at bat the Twins cut into the lead when Gary Gaetti knocked a three-run homer off of John Cerutti. Howard Sinker noted in the Star Tribune that it was the first three-run home run for the Twins in 16 days. Later in the inning, Gene Larkin scored to tie the game.

Though Straker gave the lead back the very next inning, again it can be said that the Twins did not give up. The Twins entered the sixth inning down by two, but left with the game essentially in hand. Larkin started things off with a solo home run off of Don Gordon, Larkin’s third of the season. Later in the inning, Larkin knocked in the seventh run of the inning with a single. In between, Toronto changed pitchers three times, and the Twins piled up six hits, two walks, and four stolen bases.

The Jays tried to make the game interesting with a couple of home runs in the seventh. The three-run inning pulled Toronto to within two runs, but that would be as close as they would get. The Twins scored twice late in the game to make the final score 13-9. Joe Niekro, an unlikely relief pitcher, threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to hold off the Blue Jays’ rally. It was Niekro’s first relief appearance in 15 years.

Stars of the Game
1. Gary Gaetti MIN 2-for-4, HR, 4 RBI
2. Gene Larkin MIN 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI
3. Tony Fernandez TOR 3-for-4, R, RBI

The biggest story of the game, however, was the time it took to play. It clocked in at four hours and five minutes, and was the longest nine-inning game in Twins history at the time, and was only 13 minutes short of the major league record.

Box

Born on July 25:
Sandy Ullrich b. 1921
Ullrich was a pitcher who played during World War II. 1945 was his only full season in the majors, and he went 3-3 with a 4.45 ERA that season.

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