The Minnesota Twins Are Inventing New Ways to Lose

The Twins somehow managed to lose a game yesterday where they had an insane probability to win.

Having lost the first two games in their series with the Nationals and bringing up Tyler Duffey to start on Sunday, the Minnesota Twins shouldn't have expected to win. 

The Nats came into the game fourth in our  nERD rankings at 1.69. while the Twins limped into the game with a 5-13 record and a nERD ranking of -0.28. In other words, the Nationals would be expected to be a perfectly average opponent by 1.69 runs, while the Twins would lose the contest by 0.28 runs. 

However, with no Bryce Harper in the lineup, Duffey and company stuck tough through the first seven innings. The eighth inning saw Brian Dozier take Stephen Strasburg deep and give the Twins a commanding 4-1 lead. 

Per  FanGraphs, that pushed the win probability of Minnesota to an overwhelming 92.9%. Even after scratching across two runs in the bottom of the inning, Washington still sat at just a 15.6% chance to win. 

But after a quick top of the ninth, and just a 19.2% chance to win, Bryce Harper entered the game. And this happened:

After tying things up, the next five innings were filled with pinch hitters, double switches and managers trying to figure out how to stretch out their bullpens. The Twins were finally able to tack on one run in the 15th inning thanks to a Miguel Sano single that plated the speedy Eduardo Nunez.

Having come into the game in the 12th inning, Ryan O'Rourke was in line to get his first career Major League win, needing just three outs and having a 80.8% win probability. 

After retiring the first two batters in the bottom of the 15th, O’Rourke seemed destined to get that win, having a staggering 95.6% chance to win. A two-out walk to Danny Espinosa seemed like a good play considering relief pitcher Oliver Perez was on deck and the Nats bench twas void of any position players. O’Rourke was pulled in favor of Michael Tonkin, who appeared to forget about the runner on first -- Espinosa promptly stole second base on the first pitch. 

The circus was just getting started.

Despite giving the Nats more lives than a typical cat, the Twins still entered the 16th inning with a coin-flip probability to win the contest, but failed to muster any offense, going down in order. 

That set the table for Chris Heisey and his career 3.4% home run rate. 

All of this is probably best summed up by FanGraphs win probably chart:

Twins/Nationals Win Probability