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The greatest Twins game of the last decade

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The ALDS travel day falls on a big anniversary for Twins fans

jgholt@startribune.com 10/6/2009 Twins Tigers one game playoff---] Joe Nathan reacts after the Twins turned a double play in the 9th inning. Photo by Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Well, this sucks. Fifteen consecutive postseason losses. Almost all of them against the New York Yankees. A good time to take a breath and remember back to happier times in Twins Territory as both clubs jet to Minneapolis for Target Field’s first (but hopefully not only) 2019 playoff appearance.

Exactly 10 years ago today, the Minnesota Twins played the greatest single contest I’ve ever witnessed. For Minnesota sports fans, the action started the night before when a purple-and-gold clad Brett Favre eviscerated his former Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. Less than 24 hours later, the Metrodome was flipped back to a diamond for Game 163 of the MLB season: the Twins hosting the Detroit Tigers. For an unprecedented second season in a row, the Twins were involved in an extra game tacked on to the end of the schedule.

In front of 54,088 hankey-waving Twins fans, Detroit’s 20-year old Rick Porcello and Minnesota’s Scott Baker took the mound for each squad first. The Tigers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to Magglio Ordonez & Miguel Cabrera, but the Twins battled back: Matt Tolbert scored on a botched pick-off, and both Jason Kubel & Orlando Cabrera homered.

Heading into the eighth inning, the Twins held a 4-3 advantage with Matt Guerrier towing the rubber. Two pitches later? 4-4. Thanks again, Magglio. As if a tied Game 163 wasn’t tense enough, the action was only beginning to heat up:

  • Detroit began the top of the 9th with consecutive singles, but Joe Nathan got Placido Polanco to strike out looking and then Ordonez to hit into a line-drive double play. In an image indelibly burned into my brain, Nathan leapt off the mound in an enormous fist-pump.
  • In the top of the 10th, Brandon Inge doubled home the go-ahead run off Jesse Crain. 5-4 big cats. Things looked grim.

-Just three outs from heading home, Michael Cuddyer lifted a lazy fly ball to left field...which Detroit LF Ryan Raburn lost (thank you Teflon) and allowed Cuddy to cruise into third base. Three batters later, Tolbert singled him home. 5-5.

  • In the top of the 12th, the Tigers loaded the bases with one out against Bobby Keppel. After a pitch that appeared to graze Inge’s jersey but was not called as such, Keppel recovered to get a force play at home and a strikeout.

All of that ridiculousness brought the contest to the bottom of the 12th. With one out and two men on, Alexi Casilla stepped to the plate facing Fernando Rodney...

As long as I live, I’ll never forget exactly where I was or the emotions I felt watching this incredible contest. The fall of 2009 was a great season to be a MN sports fan, and this regular season finale lived up to the billing.

I’m not going to continue the story of the ‘09 Twins. We all know how it ends. Of course we do. Instead, I’m just going to bask in the nostalgia of that shining 4+ hours of incredible baseball. Hopefully, those thoughts will keep you just a bit warmer in these darker times.