October 13, 1991
ALCS, Game Five
Twins Lead Series, 3-1
Twins: Dan Gladden (LF), Chuck Knoblauch (2B), Kirby Puckett (CF), Kent Hrbek (1B), Chili Davis (DH), Brian Harper (C), Shane Mack (RF), Mike Pagliarulo (3B), Greg Gagne (SS), Kevin Tapani (P)
Tom Candiotti had been beat up so badly in Game One that, for days leading up to his scheduled start in this game, the press speculated that Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston might go to rookie sensation Juan Guzman instead. Guzman had given Toronto 5.2 innings for the win in Game Two, but it was Candiotti who was given the nod.
Kirby Puckett made Gaston second guess himself, and made the 51,425 Blue Jays fans in attendance question Gaston, by slamming a two-out, solo homer in the top of the first to put the visiting Twins up 1-0. Shane Mack drove in Chili Davis in the second for a 2-0 lead, but after that Candiotti settled down and it was actually Kevin Tapani who had a hard time.
Toronto would open up for five runs off of Tapani between the third and fourth innings. Manuel Lee, who was 0-for-13 to this point in the series, kicked off both rallies with singles. Roberto Alomar drove in one in the third and both fourth inning runs. Also in the third, a hobbling Joe Carter brought one home with a ground-rule double and Jon Olerud plated the third run with a groundout. After four innings Toronto led 5-2, and Tapani was done for the day.
Opening the bottom of the fifth, a Greg Gagne error in foul ground and then a throwing error from Brian Harper more or less illustrated that the baseball gods really wanted Olerud to reach first base. Not to score, just to reach first base; David West didn't allow a single hit in three innings of work, getting Minnesota through the seventh inning.
West's clutch performance was a bit of a surprise, as he didn't exactly have what could be described as a good season. But the Twins didn't have a deep bullpen, and with multiple innings left to go West was as viable an option as Kelly had available. His three innings gave the Minnesota offense time to chip away at Toronto's lead, and they did just that - all at once.
Shane Mack kicked off the top of the sixth with a single, stole second, and moved up to third on Mike Pagliarulo's single. That chased Candiotti, and the Twins would pull even off of Mike Timlin and some help from Pat Borders.
With one away, Dan Gladden knocked a roller to Kelly Gruber at third base. Mack, knowing that if he stayed put Gruber would turn two and end the inning, bolted for home in an attempt to draw Gruber's throw and keep the inning alive. Mack did draw Gruber's throw, but it wasn't a perfect one, drawing the catcher, Borders, up the third base line. When Mack went by, Borders tried to apply the tag...with the hand that didn't have the ball. Result: Mack scored, and the Twins had two on and still just one out.
Chuck Knoblauch followed. He'd already had one hell of a series, and didn't stop now. The rookie went the other way, dropping a liner into shallow right field that brought Pagliarulo home to tie the game at 5-5.
Duane Ward relieved Timlin, and shut down that rally. The Twins started another one in the top of the eighth. Gagne, who didn't have the best game, singled and then was caught trying to steal second. Gladden then singled, with two outs, but Kelly kept the pressure on and Gladden stole second. Ward then tried to out-fox the rookie Knoblauch, but when the Minnesota second baseman didn't bite and walked on four pitches. Ward showed his frustration by shouting "Swing the bat!" as the batter took his base.
Puckett took Ward at his word, singled into right field, and gave the Twins the lead. Gaston went to David Wells once again, but Kent Hrbek singled to the gap to score both runners and saddle the testy Ward with three runs and, ultimately, the loss.
Rick Aguilera came on for the bottom of the ninth. Mookie Wilson, in his last Major League plate appearance, popped up. Devon White struck out. Alomar gave it a ride but Gladden settled under it to end the game and the series.
Everything the Twins needed to do in this series, they did. They had good pitching when they needed it, they had some fantastic defensive plays, the hits came at crucial times, and a number of players stepped up and performed with it mattered the most. None moreso than Puckett, who took home the series MVP.
Next up: the 1991 World Series!