October 8, 1991
ALCS, Game One
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), Jack Morris (P)
There was something unique about this series. The teams had squared off six times in the waning days of the season, in largely meaningless contests that only served to ramp up the tension. Both teams also played indoors, meaning that for the first time in the game's history an entire playoff series would be held indoors.
Unlike the ALCS four years prior, the '91 edition saw both teams with their own strengths. Minnesota had a more prolific offense; although nowhere nearly as impressive as Detroit's had been it was far better than Toronto's squad which averaged just 4.2 runs per game. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, had a more impressive pitching staff - five solid starting pitchers a deeper bullpen. Defensively, both teams had their stars. Devon White won his third Gold Glove in four years and would win four more. Kirby Puckett won the fifth of his six Gold Gloves. Roberto Alomar won the first of eleven that season. Jon Olerud was no slouch. Kelly Gruber had won the award the year prior. On the Minnesota side, Chuck Knoblauch, Greg Gagne and Shane Mack were all pretty good in their own right as well.
Not overlooked at the time was also the running game. White and Alomar had stolen 86 bases between them. The national press was sure that the key to winning the series for Minnesota was to keep Torono's one-two hitters in check. In would later become clear that keeping Gladden and Knoblauch off the bases would be just as important.
Knuckleballer Tom Candiotti arrived north of the border in June, when the Indians dealt their longtime starter to the Blue Jays in return for a package that included Mark Whiten and Glenallen Hill. While his record down the stretch wasn't what Toronto would have hoped for, his 2.98 ERA was a better indicator of how effective he actually had been. Unfortunately for the Jays, the Twins had his number early.
Chili Davis delivered a two-run single in the first to open the scoring. In the second, Gagne and Knoblauch came through with singles to push the lead to 4-0. When Mack doubled deep to right field in the third to plate Davis, Candiotti was pulled in favor of David Wells.
Wells would stem the tide, and the Twins were held scoreless for the rest of the game.
Morris, who had been sharp early, would later be accused of "pitching to the score". With a 5-0 lead going into the top of the fourth, a Joe Carter double nearly scored Alomar from first. But a combination of Puckett to Gagne to Harper kept Toronto off the plate and off the board, and the Blue Jays may have blown their big chance. Carter would score on a groundout to make it 5-1, but it's hard to say how many runs they could have scored if Alomar had pulled up at third.
Two innings later, the Jays strung together five consecutive singles, closing the gap to 5-4 with runners on first and second and still just one away. Carl "Big Train" Willis, the best Twins reliever not named Aguilera, held the lead by picking up a pair of huge outs. It was as close as the Blue Jays would get for the rest of the game.
Willis and Rick Aguilera combined to retire 11 of the last 12 hitters to come to the plate, securing a 5-4 win. The Twins hadn't yet lost in the Metrodome in the playoffs.