I was actually more excited than nervous before yesterday’s wildcard match-up between the Twins and the Yankees. A lot of Twins fans were. Obviously, we shouldn’t have been. We were young and dumb back then. Despite losing continually to the Yankees over the last 17 years, some of us had hope that this time would be different for the Twins. It was not.
I don’t know about you, but it didn’t take me until the final out to know the game was over. I never actually turned off my TV, though. Stockholm Syndrome? Maybe. Maybe that’s exactly what being a fan is.
But as I and the rest of Twins Territory watched, I think there were several specific moments in the wildcard game that brought us to the realization, whether acutely or not, that the Twins were going to lose.
Here’s what those moments were for me.
1. When the Twins ended the first inning with a 3-0 lead
This is when I first knew that it was over. Don’t get me wrong, I was still feeling like I had just inhaled a baseball-flavored whip it, but I knew it was going to be a transient feeling. It always is. I literally turned to my boyfriend and said, “I wonder how the Twins are going to Vikings this one up?”
It was just too good to be true. It already felt like the Twins had played an entire baseball game, but there was actually still eight and a half innings to go—against the Yankees. I think the more rational part of me had just watched Chad Green come in and mow down two batters in a row and went, “Oh shit.” Beating up on Luis Severino was great, until you realized the Twins basically just woke up a sleeping bear. A rabid sleeping bear known as the Yankees bullpen. The Twins were going to have to play against a rabid bear while trying not to give up a home run to Aaron Judge for the next eight and a half innings.
Maybe Byron Buxton would be magic, and out run the bear? But the pit in my stomach was already there.
2. When Ervin Santana gave up the three-run home run to Didi Gregorius to tie the game
Did I ever mention how much I hate watching home runs sail into the stands at Yankee Stadium? I’m not even sure I like watching Twins home runs there. It just looks evil. Like, hey, I’m not sure if that should be a home run, but there it goes!
Anyway, Didi Gregorius tied the game with a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. Everything the Twins had just done was erased. The Twins weren’t losing yet, though. It was technically still possible for the Twins to win, but it’s also technically possible for you to open your clothes drier and discover that somehow your clothes all landed perfectly folded.
3. When Brett Gardner hit the go-ahead home run in the second inning
It looked like Ervin Santana might stave off the inevitable after getting two outs in the second inning, but of course he couldn’t. Brett Gardner sent one of those evil sailing balls into the stands to give the Yankees the 4-3 lead. Just like that, the Twins were losing, and there were still six more innings to go.
4. When Joe Mauer grounded into a double play to end the fourth inning
By this point, the Twins had already tied the game up and given away the lead again, which had strangely given me back a little hope. So then in the fourth, Brian Dozier reached base with one out, and Joe Mauer came to the plate. Maybe this was the kind of game where the Twins would go tit-for-tat with the Yankees and tie it back up!
Nope. Joe Mauer grounded into a double play. There is no more hopeless feeling than watching Joe Mauer ground into a double play. I think I’d rather see him bunt.
5. When Byron Buxton was removed from the game
You know how I said watching Mauer ground into a double play is the most hopeless feeling? I was wrong. In between the top and the bottom of the fourth inning, I was looking at my Twitter feed and saw the report that Buxton was pulled from the game. That was the moment I knew it was over.
Without Byron Buxton, the Twins were nothing. It’s no coincidence that the Twins’ biggest slump of the season came while Buxton was on the DL. He’s magic. He was the only player on the field I could point at and say, “Oh yeah, Yankees? You don’t have that!”
I almost stopped watching. It was over. I did half stop watching as I started to wander around my small apartment looking for something else to do. Go to bed? Drink a beer? Call my Mom?
6. When Aaron Judge inevitably hit a home run
Right after Buxton was pulled from the game Aaron Judge blasted a two-run bomb off Jose Berrios. Everything I had feared was coming true. I had been so stupid.
7. When Joe Mauer flied out but stupid ESPN made it look like he hit a game-tying home run for a second
Against all odds, the Twins got something going in the sixth, even without Byron Buxton. His replacement, Zack Granite, singled to open the inning, and two outs later Brian Dozier walked. It brought Joe Mauer to the plate with two guys on and two outs. I was feeling optimistic, since Mauer wouldn’t be able to hit into a double play this time.
Then Mauer hit one way back—at Yankee stadium, where I can never tell what’s going to be a home run—and it was still going, until ESPN switched the camera angle and... it went out? Did that go out? Did Mauer just hit a three-run home run to tie the... oh, nope. Gardner had the ball. He caught it.
God is fucking cruel.
8. When Alan Busenitz walked Aaron Hicks with the bases loaded in the seventh inning
Not going to lie: I don’t even really remember this. By this point in the game I was intoxicated and on the verge of tears, wandering back and fourth in my apartment, wondering if I would ever see the Twins win another championship in my lifetime. “Was it worth it?” I kept thinking. Was it worth it? Was it worth it? I was thinking about my favorite childhood player, Kirby Puckett, who made me a baseball fan. I was thinking about watching the Twins win the 1991 World Series, which I can remember more clearly than 1987. Was it worth it? It was the best World Series ever played, and the Twins won it. If I never saw the Twins win again, was 1991 worth it? I had basically constructed a story in my mind where the Twins must have sold their souls to win that series in exchange for never winning again. Was it worth it? I knew what the answer was for me. I was wiping away tears.
9. When Zack Granite missed first base in the top of the eighth
By this point I was back in the living room watching the game, which was cool because I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a player do what Granite did. He was running out a grounder and appeared to narrowly beat the throw to first—except he somehow never stepped on the bag. His strides were so long he somehow stepped over the bag, and was tagged out. It was like the anti-Punto.
At that point I was just shook my head. It didn’t matter. The Twins were just a bunch of little leaguers trying to fend off a rabid bear and Aaron Judge. Byron Buxton was out of the game. Joe Mauer hit into a double play. It was a losing battle. It was over. It had already been over. The season was over.
But that’s what happens in baseball—you play until it is over. Then you play again.
The Twins will be back to play again next year.
When did you know it was over for the Twins?
This poll is closed
Before the game started.
When the Twins got a three-run lead.
When Ervin Santana gave up the three-run home run to Didi Gregorius to tie the game
When Brett Gardner hit the go-ahead home run in the second inning
When Joe Mauer grounded into a double play to end the fourth inning
When Byron Buxton left the game
When Aaron Judge inevitably hit a home run
When Joe Mauer flied-out but stupid ESPN made it look like he hit a game-tying home run for a second
When Alan Busenitz walked Aaron Hicks with the bases loaded in the seventh inning
When Zack Granite missed first base in the top of the eighth