Minneapolis

The game went on long enough that a second rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was belted out at Target Field. It came in the middle of the 14th inning, at about 11:50 p.m.

The several hundred fans remaining from the original announced crowd of 25,741, and every person in the press box, probably would've preferred "The End" by The Doors.

It was not to be.

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The Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox were tied 3-3 at that point, more than 4 1/2 hours after the contest began. The game would last more than an hour longer.

It reached a point where the warts that had sprouted on the Twins in the past few days no longer mattered. A victory would make them disappear, at least temporarily, because a victory would make the marathon worth it. The problems could be addressed later.

And there are problems. Base-running fundamentals seem to be one of them. But we'll save the negativity for later.

The Twins finally beat the Red Sox 4-3 on Max Kepler's RBI single in the bottom of the 17th inning, scoring Luis Arraez from third and bringing to an end one of the longest games in team history.

The clock at the top of the tower in right field read 12:55, meaning the time of the game was 5 hours, 45 minutes. That ties for the fourth-longest game in Twins history.

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It was the longest game by innings in Target Field history, besting a couple of 15-inning contests. It didn't come close to the most innings the Twins have played in one game. That record sits at 22, done twice.

"To lose a game like that would take way more out of you than winning a game propels you. You know what I mean?" Twins catcher Mitch Garver said. "Losing that game sucks. That would be so hard to go that far, use all the pitchers that you did, grind out at-bats and then lose. It feels great to be on top."

The victory stopped a mini-losing streak for Minnesota at two games. Big whoop, right? But it meant something because the Twins haven't lost three straight all season. The Twins are 48-24 and remain 10 games ahead of Cleveland in the American League Central.

Kepler, who pinch hit for Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth inning, ended up going 3-for-5 with three RBIs, all three in clutch situations. His single in the eighth inning scored Garver and tied the game 2-2. His solo homer in the 13th tied it 3-3 after the Red Sox took the lead in the top of the inning on a homer by Mookie Betts.

"I don't think the moments really bother him very much," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He has really good at-bats pretty all the time. We can point to the coming through in the clutch in big situations. He does that. He also comes through leading off games. He comes through a lot. You look at the year he's having, it's an All-Star caliber season. It's just fantastic."

But the story of this one was the wackiness that accompanies a marathon battle of attrition.

Like this: Minnesota's Miguel Sano went 0 for 7 with five strikeouts and left five runners on base.

Or this: Boston's J.D. Martinez went 0 for 8 with five strikeouts and and left four runners on base.

Twins center fielder Jake Cave, called up from the minor leagues earlier in the day to replace the injured Byron Buxton, went 0 for 6.

Arraez, who singled to lead off the bottom of the 17th before scoring the winning run, was called up from the minors earlier to replace the injured Ehire Adrianza on the roster.

Each team used nine pitchers, who combined to throw 487 pitches. Zack Littell, the mop-up pitcher the Twins will use last in any game, picked up his first big-league victory by throwing the 16th and 17th innings.

"That was one of the best games I've ever been a part of in baseball. I think a lot of people in that clubhouse can say the same thing," Baldelli said. "I couldn't be prouder of our players and our staff, how we went about our business for, what was it, six hours?"

Strangely, it felt like the Twins needed to win this one. They lost a clunky game Sunday to the Kansas City Royals and were shut out 2-0 in Monday's series opener against the Red Sox. Their bats were balky again against Boston starter David Price and all those relievers and, until Kepler went deep in the 13th, the Twins had gone 23 innings without a home run. For this club, that felt like 23 days.

They also had a couple of base-running miscues, a day after Kepler had a blunder on the bases that was much talked-about in the Twin Cities. Garver was picked off third base by Boston catcher Christian Velasquez in the sixth after the Twins got runners on first and third with nobody out. Then Eddie Rosario was doubled off second base after leading off the 15th inning with a double.

Those issues were wiped away by the win.

"Once you get past four or five hours and you're playing out there, you get a little delirious and guys start saying things and doing things that they don't normally do and say. While it's weird and a little odd, it's very normal. We were out there a long time and when you use up that much energy, both physical and emotional, to get to that point in the game, you start acting a little bit different," Baldelli said. "When you spend that amount of time and effort and energy out there to go out there and win the game ... we've all been on the side of losing long games and it's not a good feeling. It happens. It could've been us tonight and it wasn't, luckily. I do promise you, it's much better to be going home and going to bed after a win."