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10/07/09 12:05 AM EST
Given second chance, Casilla delivers
After being thrown out at home, infielder puts Twins in ALDS
By Tyler Mason / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' Alexi Casilla called his shot before Tuesday's 6-5 victory over the Tigers. The seldom-used infielder told teammate Orlando Cabrera he'd win the Twins' one-game tiebreaker against the Tigers and send his team to the postseason. A game-winning base hit in the 12th inning might not have been exactly how he drew it up, however. "Alexi Casilla told me before the game, 'I'm going to win this game,'" Cabrera said. "I swear to God. On the field before the game, he said, 'I'm going to win this game.' ... Look what happened. It's a special moment. It's magic." Casilla entered Tuesday's tiebreaker as a pinch-runner in the 10th inning. Two innings later, with one out and his good friend Carlos Gomez on second base, Casilla delivered the game-winning single to right field, sending the Twins to the playoffs. "I can't describe the emotions right now," Casilla said in the champagne-soaked clubhouse afterward. "I have no words to say." Casilla could have ended everything two innings earlier. After Brendan Harris walked with one out, Casilla pinch-ran for Harris. He advanced to third on a game-tying single by Matt Tolbert, but a costly mistake on the basepaths resulted in an inning-ending double play. Nick Punto sent a line drive to short left field, which was caught by Detroit's Ryan Raburn. Casilla left third base when Punto made contact and had to retreat back to the bag to tag up. Raburn's throw found Tigers catcher Gerald Laird on one hop, and Laird tagged a sliding Casilla to end the inning and keep the game alive. "I wanted to be able to make the play to try to help this team win," Raburn said. "It kept us in there for a little longer." "I was out by a mile," Casilla said of the play at the plate. "As soon as Nicky hit the ball, I knew that it's going to be tough on that play. It was a hard line drive. He was playing in. He had a very good run. I [said], 'OK. He hit a line drive. Let's see what happens.' Maybe he doesn't make a good throw, we score, we got a chance to win." Casilla didn't score the winning run. Even better, perhaps: his single that scored Gomez won it, fulfilling his pregame prediction. "It couldn't have happened to two better guys," Twins infielder Nick Punto said. "They come in here with great attitudes every day." Neither Casilla nor Gomez had been used much by Minnesota during the final stretch of the season. Prior to Tuesday, Casilla had just two at-bats since Sept. 11, which was also the last time he started a game. "He deserved it. He's been through so much this year," Minnesota outfielder Denard Span said of Casilla. "Him and Gomez, it's good to see those two guys on base and win it for us. That just shows you we need everybody on this team." "We don't have a lot of game time," Casilla said of himself and Gomez. "He got the winning run and me getting the winning hit, that's something special." That winning run came in the form of a headfirst slide by the speedy Gomez, sending everyone in the Twins' dugout into a frenzy at home plate. "That's our loose cannons," Minnesota skipper Ron Gardenhire said. "We were yelling that with Gomez leading off, I knew Lexi was coming up. I said let's have a loose cannon inning and there it is. Loose cannon." "I wanted to slide, because I wanted to make sure," Gomez said. "This is a moment you can't control your emotions."
Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.