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All-Time Twins Tournament, Johnson Round, Day 5: Worst to first

Featuring upsets, anticlimax, and symmetry.

Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays
To the victor may go the spoils, but here, the victors are the spoilers.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The best of five would move on at the end of these best-of-five series. Let’s see who they were.

1 vs. 16

(16) 2017 Twins 5
(1) 1991 Twins 2
2017 wins series 3-2

‘17 pulled off the upset of the Walter Johnson round, winning 5-2 in the decisive fifth game to oust top-seeded ‘91 from the bracket.

Thanks to a steady stream of single-frame innings, ‘17 knocked Jack Morris from the game in the fifth inning with a 4-2 lead. Ervin Santana pitched five five-hit innings before yielding to the bullpen, and Ryan Pressly, Tyler Duffey, and Trevor Hildenberger combined to allow only three more hits the rest of the way.

‘91 never held a lead, as their final run, a third-inning solo home run by Shane Mack, was matched by Jason Castro’s one-run four-bagger half an inning later.

Stars of the Game
‘17 — DH Miguel Sano: 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI
‘91 — RF Shane Mack: HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB

Series MVP
Eduardo Escobar (2017 3B)
9-23, 3 HR, 2B, 4 R, 7 RBI

8 vs. 9

(9) 1925 Senators 13
(8) 2010 Twins 7
1925 wins series 3-2

In a slugfest of a finale, ‘25 ran away with a 13-7 victory and a spot in the Harmon Killebrew Round.

The ‘25 offense, led by Goose Goslin, Joe Harris, and Sam Rice (four hits each, combined 12-17, 2 HR, 3B, 2B, 9 R, 11 RBI), outslugged ‘10’s lineup (one homer apiece from Danny Valencia, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel), and did so from the opening. ‘25 knocked Francisco Liriano out of the game after five batters without his recording an out, tallying four runs in the first and five in the sixth.

‘10 put runs on the scoreboard at a regular pace, but ‘25’s lead was too great a gap to overcome.

Stars of the Game
‘25 — LF Goose Goslin: 4-6, 2 HR, 4 R, 5 RBI
‘10 — 3B Danny Valencia: 3-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB

Series MVP
Goose Goslin (‘25 LF)
11-24, 3 HR, 3B, 2B, 8 R, 7 RBI

5 vs. 12

(12) 2006 Twins 8
(5) 1970 Twins 4
2006 wins series 3-2

In the first and only road win of their opening series, ‘06 took the lead permanently with a five-run fourth on their way to an 8-4 victory.

After ‘70 catcher George Mitterwald parried Justin Morneau’s first-inning RBI single with a solo home run two frames later, ‘06 made sure ‘70 would not come back again. With the bases loaded, Joe Mauer brought in two runners with a single, and after Justin Morneau’s one-bagger reloaded the bases, Michael Cuddyer sent a fly deep enough into right field to land for a three-run double.

‘06 extended their lead in the late innings, and despite the bullpen allowing three in the ninth, Joe Nathan struck out Rod Carew and caught Tony Oliva’s pop-up to send his club to the next round.

Stars of the Game
‘06 — SS Jason Bartlett: 3-3, 3B, 2 R
‘70 — C George Mitterwald: 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB

Series MVP
Michael Cuddyer (‘06 RF)
10-22, 2 HR, 7 2B(!!), 4 R, 6 RBI

3 vs. 14

(14) 2004 Twins 5
(3) 1969 Twins 9
1969 wins series 3-2

After falling behind 4-0 in the deciding game of a series where they were heavily favored, ‘69 stormed back, taking a 5-4 lead and eventually breaking open a 5-5 tie to exit the game with a 9-5 triumph.

‘69 starter Jim Perry ran into trouble in the fourth, allowing hits to five of six batters while recording just one out. Though Dave Boswell relieved Perry and retired the next two hitters, for a moment, it appeared this series would be yet another major upset.

But ‘69 quickly struck back against Johan Santana. Rod Carew led off the bottom of the fourth with a triple and Tony Oliva brought him in with a double. After Rich Reese’s single put men on the corners, César Tovar sent Santana’s first pitch over the wall, his three-run jack tying the game and knocking Santana from the game. The home team added one more run off reliever Grant Balfour to take the lead, but saw that vanish when Joe Mauer cracked a solo homer in the top of the fifth.

The score remained tied until the seventh, when ‘69 put three more runs on the board thanks to three singles, two walks (one intentional), and two errors. ‘69 added another unearned run in the bottom of the eighth, setting the stage for Ron Perranoski to shut the door on ‘04.

Stars of the Game
‘04 — C Joe Mauer: 3-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB
‘69 — RP Dave Boswell: 4.2 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 4 BB, 6 K, W

Series MVP
Harmon Killebrew (‘69 DH)
11-22, HR, 4 2B, 5 R, 7 RBI

7 vs. 10 (played)

(10) 2002 Twins 4
(7) 2019 Twins 5
-10 innings-
2019 wins series 3-2

Nine innings were not enough to decide the final series of the Walter Johnson round, as ‘02 and ‘19 went 10 innings before ‘19 walked off the round with a 5-4 win.

‘19 jumped out to an early lead off Johan Santana, with Nelson Cruz and Eddie Rosario hitting back-to-back homers to take a first-inning 3-0 lead. But Santana settled down after that, keeping ‘19 off the scoreboard for the next four innings.

Meanwhile, ‘02’s offense rattled Jose Berrios and grabbed the lead. ‘02 tied the score in the third, Jacque Jones hitting a two-run double and Doug Mientkiewicz driving him in with a single, before taking the lead in the fifth when Torii Hunter singled in Cristian Guzman. But ‘19 matched that RBI single with one of their own in the sixth by Luis Arraez, and the game went to the bullpens.

Despite stellar pitching from both teams’ relievers, the game unraveled for ‘02 in the bottom of the 10th. With Joe Mays on the mound, Eddie Rosario singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Mays walked Miguel Sanó to set up a force, but promptly balked both runners up a base. After issuing a second consecutive intentional pass to load the bases in hopes for a force at home, Mays missed on his full-count offering to C.J. Cron, walking in Rosario and sending ’19 to the Killebrew Round.

Stars of the Game
‘02 — SS Cristian Guzmán: 2-3, 2 R, BB, SB
‘19 — RP Taylor Rogers: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 K, W

Series MVP
Taylor Rogers (‘19 RP)
1-0, 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 2 SV

Thus we have the following matchups moving forward:

For those who cannot read the image above, the matchups are:

  • (16) 2017 Twins vs. (9) 1925 Senators (T.J. Regional)
  • (12) 2006 Twins vs. (13) 2003 Twins (Tawny Regional)
  • (3) 1969 Twins vs. (6) 1924 Senators (Maija Regional)
  • (7) 2019 Twins vs. (2) 1933 Senators (Sandwiches Regional)

Of note:

  • Both Tom Kelly-era World Series champions were eliminated. While 1987 may not have been surprising, being the 11th seed, the team with the lowest fWAR, and facing another Series champ in the ‘24 Senators, 1991’s elimination as the top seed was a major surprise.
  • All three Senators teams advanced.
  • The only match between teams near each other in date is the Tawny Regional, between the 2003 and 2006 Twins. Writing those up could get challenging with so many players on both teams.
  • Because of the symmetry of the bracket — all four lower seeds on the left won, while all four higher seeds on the right won — the final must consist of a team from the lower half of seeding against a team from the higher half. We’ve got two rounds to go before we learn which.

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