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All-Time Twins Tournament, Johnson Round, Day 4: Anything can happen

In which the one-game playoff becomes more popular than ever.

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals
Belisle M for More Baseball.
Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

Six teams had a chance to clinch a berth in the Harmon Killebrew round. Let’s see how they did.

1 vs. 16

(1) 1991 Twins 4
(16) 2017 Twins 6
Series tied 2-2

‘17 did not give ‘91 an opportunity to coast to elimination, tying the game in the fourth and breaking the tie with two runs in the eighth to win 6-4, forcing a fifth game.

Though ‘17 starter Bartolo Colon failed to make it through three innings, allowing all four ‘91 runs (including a three-run home run by Greg Gagne), their bullpen shut down the opposition, allowing three hits and no further runs in 6.2 innings. Meanwhile, their offense knocked David West out of the game after five innings, scoring a pair in the first on Miguel Sano’s home run and two more in the fourth.

The tie would not be broken until the bottom of the eighth, when Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar greeted Carl Willis with back-to-back doubles. Escobar came around to score on a sacrifice fly, and Buddy Boshers set down ‘91 in order to knot the series.

Stars of the Game
‘91 — SS Greg Gagne: 1-4, HR, R, 3 RBI
‘17 — RP Taylor Rogers: 3.0 IP, H, 0 R, BB

8 vs. 9

(8) 2010 Twins 9
(9) 1925 Senators 2
Series tied 2-2

Needing a win to remain alive, ‘10 hammered ‘25 starter Dutch Ruether and reliever Allen Russell to coast to a 9-2 victory.

‘10 started off the scoring hard, putting four runs on the board in the top of the fourth thanks to a walk, a hit batter, and four singles. ‘25 got a run back in the bottom of the inning on an errant pickoff throw, but ‘10 added three in the sixth, Joe Mauer knocking an RBI double and Justin Morneau driving in two with a single, to extend the lead to 7-1.

Goose Goslin’s solo homer was not enough for ‘25 to narrow the gap as Carl Pavano pitched a four-inning save.

Stars of the Game
‘10 — CF Denard Span: 3-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI
‘25 — LF Goose Goslin: 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI

5 vs. 12 (played)

(5) 1970 Twins 6
(12) 2006 Twins 8
Series tied 2-2

Despite Harmon Killebrew’s two home runs, ‘70 was unable to knock out ‘06 as the 12th seed rode the strength of a five-run sixth to an 8-6 win.

Killebrew had helped ‘70 take an early 3-0 lead, driving a two-run blast to open the scoring in the first, but ‘06 narrowed the deficit to 3-2 with the help of Michael Cuddyer’s third-inning solo shot. ‘06 finally strung hits together against Luis Tiant in the sixth, as Nick Punto tied the game with a run-scoring single, Luis Castillo brought home Jason Kubel on a squeeze bunt to take the lead, and Jason Bartlett slapped a two-run double to pull farther in front.

Justin Morneau’s inning-capping sacrifice fly would prove important when Killebrew sent a Matt Guerrier offering over the right field wall for a three-run home run, making the score 7-6, but Castillo singled home Kubel for an insurance run in the seventh. Although ‘70 put men on second and third in the ninth, Juan Rincon was able to get Brant Alyea and César Tovar to ground out to end the game.

Stars of the Game
‘70 — DH Harmon Killebrew: 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 5 RBI, 2 BB
‘06 — 3B Nick Punto: 3-4, R, RBI

3 vs. 14

(3) 1969 Twins 7
(14) 2004 Twins 9
Series tied 2-2

Facing a 4-1 deficit in an elimination game, ‘04 hammered ‘69 hurlers Dean Chance and Tom Hall for four runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings, holding on for a 9-7 win and staving off the ax.

‘69 jumped out to a 4-1 lead after three, scoring in each of the first three innings while limiting ‘04 bats to minimal contact, only allowing the initial run on a wild pitch. But Chance lost control in fourth, walking five batters and balking in a run to allow four runs across the plate. ‘04 duplicated that result in the fifth, but this time using their bats, Jacque Jones slugging a key three-run home run and Lew Ford singling home Cristian Guzman.

Harmon Killebrew smacked a three-run home run of his own in the subsequent half-inning, but four ‘04 relievers kept any further runs from coming across over the final 3.2 partitions to bring the series to a fifth contest.

Stars of the Game
‘69 — DH Harmon Killebrew: 3-5, HR, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI
‘04 — RF Jacque Jones: 1-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB

7 vs. 10

(7) 2019 Twins 4
(10) 2002 Twins 6
Series tied 2-2

‘02 knocked Kyle Gibson out of the game in the third inning and held on for a tiebreak-forcing 6-4 victory.

After ‘19 picked up the first run of the game in the top of the second when Mitch Garver singled in Luis Arraez, ‘02 responded with a three-spot, loading the bases with no outs before Cristian Guzmán grounded into a run-scoring fielder’s choice and Jacque Jones drove in a pair with a single.

‘02 added single tallies in the third and fourth before ‘19 nearly tied it up with three in the top of the sixth. With Tony Fiore relieving Eric Milton, Eddie Rosario doubled and Miguel Sanó singled him home. After Max Kepler flew out, C.J. Cron moved Sanó to third on a double and Arraez drove him in on a groundout. LaTroy Hawkins came in and allowed Byron Buxton to double, scoring Cron, before ending the inning by inducing Garver to fly out.

But ‘02 put up an insurance run in the bottom half, Corey Koskie’s sacrifice fly bringing in Torii Hunter, before three relievers kept ‘19 from returning to the scoreboard, Eddie Guardado stranding two men on for the save.

Stars of the Game
‘19 — CF Byron Buxton: 3-4, 2 2B, RBI
‘02 — C A.J. Pierzynski: 3-4, 2B, R, RBI

2 vs. 15

(2) 1933 Senators 6
(15) 2009 Twins 3
1933 wins series 3-1

Despite falling behind early, ’33 pulled ahead of ‘09 with a pair of middle-inning home runs and took the game 6-3, advancing to the Harmon Killebrew Round.

With ‘09’s bullpen exhausted, Jesse Crain started the game as an opener before yielding to Francisco Liriano, who was unable to hold onto a first-inning lead provided by Michael Cuddyer’s two-run double. ‘33 picked up a run in the second when Buddy Myer doubled home Dave Harris, then pulled ahead two innings later when Harris clubbed a two-run homer. Fred Schulte duplicated Harris’ feat in ‘33’s next batting frame, driving Liriano from the game.

‘33 matched ‘09’s run in the bottom of the fifth with one in the top of the sixth to conclude the scoring. With a fatigued bullpen as well, ‘33 held ‘09 to four hits over the course of the game. Closer Jack Russell retired ‘09 on three pitches in the ninth to end the series.

Stars of the Game
‘33 — RP Lefty Stewart: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, K, 40 pitches
‘09 — LF Denard Span: 2-4, R, RBI, 2 SB

Series MVP
Joe Kuhel (1B, 1933)
9-18, 3B, 2 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI

With only one series completed in Game 4, we now have a busy fifth day of games:

Walter Johnson Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
Harmon Killebrew Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
Kirby Puckett Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5 / Day 6 / Day 7
Joe Mauer Round: Preview / Game 1 / Game 2 / Game 3 / Game 4 / Game 5 / Game 6 / Game 7