October 4, 1969
ALCS, Game One
Twins: Cesar Tovar (CF), Rod Carew (2B), Harmon Killebrew (3B), Tony Oliva (RF), Bob Allison (LF), Rich Reese (1B), Leo Cardenas (SS), George Mitterwald (C), Jim Perry (P)
Orioles: Dun Buford (LF), Paul Blair (CF), Frank Robinson (RF), Boog Powell (1B), Brooks Robinson (3B), Elrod Hendricks (C), Davey Johnson (2B), Mark Belanger (SS), Mike Cuellar (P)
One year minus one day before the start of the 1970 ALCS, the same teams and the same starting pitchers squared off in Game One of the 1969 American League Championship Series. The Twins had scored 790 runs that season, the second most in franchise history at the time, but the Orioles were 12 games better by finishing their season 109-53. It was one more win than they'd have in their 1970 campaign, and the franchise hasn't been close to either mark since.
And so the Orioles, at the height of their power, took on a Minnesota club littered with franchise legends. To get a sense of how good these two teams were:
- Harmon Killebrew won the 1969 American League MVP. Boog Powell and Frank Robinson finished second and third, respectively. Seven Twins finished in the top 17 in voting; Baltimore had five in the top 13.
- Mike Cuellar and Jim Perry finished tied for first and second respectively for the American League Cy Young award. Baltimore's other ace, Dave McNally, finished third. Detroit's Denny McClain shard the Cy Young with Cuellar.
- Minnesota had four All-Stars that season: Rod Carew (2B), Johnny Roseboro (C), Harmon Killebrew (1B), and Tony Oliva (OF).
- Baltimore had six All-Stars: Frank Robinson (OF), Boog Powell (1B), Dave McNally (P), Davey Johnson (2B), Brooks Robinson (3B), and Paul Blair (OF).
As for the game itself, both teams were evenly matched. A Baltimore double play erased an infield single from Carew. Mitterwald threw out Brooks Robinson trying to steal second base. Perry induced back-to-back foul pop outs. Cuellar was getting plenty of swings and misses.
The Orioles broke through in the fourth when Frank Robinson went deep for a one-out solo homer. But the Twins answered when Oliva led off the top of the fifth with a double and scored on an Allison sac fly. Baltimore answered back in the bottom half when Belanger, who had hit just two home runs in 594 plate appearances all season, hit a solo homer to give the home team a one-run lead.
Game One took a drastic swing in the seventh, when Killebrew took a one-out walk and then Tony Oliva did what only happened 18 times to Cuellar in 290.2 innings: he homered. The two-run shot put Minnesota up 3-2, and swung win probability from from a 70% advantage for the Orioles to a 68% advantage for the visiting Twins.
But in the bottom of the ninth, with Perry still on the mound, The Mighty Boog sent the Baltimore faithful into a frenzy by tying the game with a lead-off home run. With a runner on second and still no outs, Ron Perranoski relieved Perry. He was able to get out of the inning, but once again Mitterwald came up huge and threw out Brooks Robinson trying to steal for the second time in the game. Killebrew applied the tag at third, and Mitterwald's throw sent the game into extras.
Perronoski and Earl Watt led their teams through extra innings, again trading zeroes. Baltimore would have first and second with one out, and runners at the corners with two out, in the bottom of the eleventh, but couldn't score. Minnesota loaded the bases with one out in the top of the twelfth, but Dick Hall came on and retired Cardenas and pinch hitter Johnny Roseboro to get out of the inning.
Belanger led off the bottom of the twelfth with a single, advancing to third off of a bunt and a ground out. One out away from sending the game into the thirteenth inning, Paul Blair snapped his 0-for-4 game with a game-winning single.
Minnesota lost, but...what a game. It was baseball's first year with divisional playoff matchups, and I doubt anyone could have been more pleased with the quality of the game.
October 4, 1970
ALCS, Game Two
Orioles: Mark Belanger (SS), Paul Blair (CF), Frank Robinson (RF), Boog Powell (1B), Merv Rettenmund (LF), Brooks Robinson (3B), Davey Johnson (2B), Andy Etchebarren (C), Dave McNally (P)
Twins: Cesar Tovar (CF), Leo Cardenas (SS), Harmon Killebrew (1B), Tony Oliva (RF), Brant Alyea (LF), George Mitterwald (C), Rick Renick (3B), Danny Thompson (2B), Tom Hall (P)
Don Buford was in the middle of the best three years of his career, as from 1969 to 1971 he posted a .405 on-base percentage. He wasn't in Baltimore's lineup on this day, but it would hardly seem to matter. Every Oriole would collect at least one hit, and Buford's stand-in in the leadoff role, Belanger, was integral in his three-hit performance.
Over the first four innings, Hall was getting picked up early by the Orioles. The visiting team was up 4-0 going into Minnesota's half of the fourth, and Dave McNally hadn't as yet allowed a base hit. But he walked Cardenas to kick off the frame, and then Killebrew and Oliva went back-to-back to bring the Twins to within a run at 4-3.
Sadly the Twins would never threaten again and, just like in Game One, a seven-run inning was the proverbial nail in the coffin. This time it came in the ninth against Ron Parranoski and Luis Tiant. Parranoski sandwiched a strikeout with two singles, two doubles, and a walk, and when Tiant entered he didn't fare any better. Powell would score on a Renick error, and Johnson's three-run homer capped a devastating inning.
With the 11-3 win, Baltimore took a 2-0 lead in the 1970 ALCS.
October 4, 2002
ALDS, Game Three
Athletics: Ray Durham (DH), Scott Hatteberg (1B), Miguel Tejada (SS), Eric Chavez (3B), Jermaine Dye (RF), David Justice (LF), Mark Ellis (2B), Terrence Long (CF), Ramon Hernandez (C), Barry Zito (P)
Twins: Jacque Jones (LF), Cristian Guzman (SS), Corey Koskie (3B), David Ortiz (DH), Torii Hunter (CF), Doug Mientkiewicz (1B), Michael Cuddyer (RF), A.J. Pierzynski (C), Luis Rivas (2B), Rick Reed (P)
Rick Reed had come over from the Mets
at the 2001 trade deadline, when the Twins were playing well before fading at the end of the season. In 2002 Reed had his final good season, and was the grizzled veteran pitcher who set the mold for Twins grizzled veteran pitchers for the next decade. But Game Three didn't start well. Ray Durham lined a ball into center field to lead off the game, and an aggressive Torii Hunter dove...but, reminiscent of an incident against the A's in the playoffs four years later (to the day, as it turns out), the ball dipped under his glove. Durham circled the bases for an inside the park home run. And then Scott Hatteberg hit a home run of the more traditional variety.
The Twins had a threat going in the second when they loaded the bases against Zito, but they couldn't score. Terrence Long pushed Oakland's lead to 3-0 with a solo homer in the fourth.
Minnesota finally did break through in the bottom half of the frame, when a leadoff double from Hunter paid off when A.J. Pierzynski leveled the third hit of the inning. In the bottom of the fifth Corey Koskie tripled to score Jacque Jones from first, and two batters later Hunter singled to tie the game at three.
Gardy left an inconsistent Reed on the hill to start the sixth and paid the price. This time it was Jermaine Dye who hit the home run, and with Reed finally chased future ace Johan Santana took the hill. But Oakland would score two more in the seventh, and Minnesota wouldn't mount another threat in the game.
With the 6-3 win, the A's took a 2-1 series lead from the Twins in the 2002 ALDS.
October 4, 2003
ALDS, Game Three
Yankees: Alfonso Soriano (2B), Derek Jeter (SS), Jason Giambi (DH), Bernie Williams (CF), Jorge Posada (C), Hideki Matsui (LF), Aaron Boone (3B), Nick Johnson (1B), Juan Rivera (RF), Roger Clemens (P)
Twins: Shannon Stewart (LF), Luis Rivas (2B), Doug Mientkiewicz (1B), Matt LeCroy (DH), Jacque Jones (RF), Torii Hunter (CF), Corey Koskie (3B), A.J. Pierzynski (C), Cristian Guzman (SS), Kyle Lohse (P)
All of the scoring in this game took place in the first three innings. Hideki Matsui's second inning two-run homer and Bernie Williams' third inning single gave the visiting Yankees a 3-0 lead before the Twins countered, with A.J. Pierzynski leading off the bottom of the third with a home run.
Lohse would turn away a Bomber threat in the fourth and Clemens returned the favor in the fifth, and in the top of the seventh Kenny Rogers and J.C. Romero escaped a bases loaded situation. After that there was never as serious a situation, and for the second game in a row Mariano Rivera took the hill to record a two-out save and give New York a 2-1 series lead.
In the playoffs, sometimes pitcher's duels are even bigger nail-biters than the high scoring contests. That was certainly in the case in this game, as I remember being unable to tear myself away from the television at any time.
October 4, 2006
ALDS, Game Two
Athletics: Jason Kendall (C), Mark Kotsay (CF), Milton Bradley (RF), Frank Thomas (DH), Eric Chavez (3B), Jay Payton (LF), Nick Swisher (1B), Marco Scutaro (SS), Mark Ellis (2B), Esteban Loaiza (P)
Twins: Luis Castillo (2B), Nick Punto (3B), Joe Mauer (C), Michael Cuddyer (RF), Justin Morneau (1B), Torii Hunter (CF), Rondell White (LF), Jason Tyner (DH), Jason Bartlett (SS), Boof Bonser (P)
The big play in this game ended up being Torii Hunter's ill-fated dive in an attempt to reel in a line drive off the bat of Mark Kotsay. Kotsay's liner dove under Hunter's glove and, four years to the day after it happened for Ray Durham, allowed Kotsay to circle the bases with what would ultimately be the winning run.
A difficult fifth had Oakland cracking anything Bonser threw in the vicinity of the dish, with a Marco Scutaro double and Jason Kendall single scoring a run each. It was Oakland's first threat since the second, but in that instance Bonser had turned the AL West champions away empty handed. Still, the two fifth inning runs drove home Minnesota's own inability to score when it counted, as Esteban Loaiza escaped his own pair of onslaughts in the first and the fourth.
The Twins would have another chance in the fifth, with two on and two out for the third time in the game. What better time to come through than the very half inning following Oakland's scores? But once again Loaiza came out ahead, inducing a ground out from Joe Mauer.
All of which made Michael Cuddyer's and Justin Morneau's back-to-back homers in the sixth so much more exciting. They tied the game at two.
Until Hunter missed Kotsay's liner.
Oakland would score another run in the ninth on a Joe Nathan wild pitch. It was a fitting end to the game, in which the Twins seemed to be putting too much pressure on themselves and, as a result, took too many chances or let the pressure get to their nerves. The 4-2 defeat gave Oakland a 2-0 series lead.
Game Thread from October 4, 2006 (You'll note an image is missing - it's Boof Bonser, pitching through fire I believe - thus "The Boof Is On Fire" - but I believe the image was lost in one of SB Nation's platform transitions.)
Other Events On This Date
- 1986: Greg Gagne hits two inside the park homes, still the only Twin to ever accomplish this feat. Even better: it was against the White Sox.
- 2009: The Twins obliterated the Royals 13-4 in what should have been the Metrodome's final regular season home game. The Tigers, who had been choking all month long, actually won their game to force Game 163 two days later.
- 2012: In a surprising turn, the Twins fire and reassign all coaches save Manager Ron Gardenhire and Pitching Coach Rick Anderson.