At the beginning of this season—so roughly 10-15 years ago in pandemic-time—I recalled how the Minnesota Twins opened the year 2000 with a wacky series against Tampa Bay. Oddly, they finished the ‘00 campaign in similar fashion. With the current iteration of the Twins now set for a potentially wild season-ending three game set with the Cincinnati Reds, let’s take a final glance back at the history books for some two-decades old baseball nuttiness:
Heading into the final three games of Y2K, the Twins (69-90) traveled to Detroit (76-83). Two ball clubs playing out the string on cellar-dwelling seasons. As so often happens in the game of baseball, however, much entertaining baseball was the result.
In the first game, Joe Mays was excellent for the visiting Twins, hurling a complete game and only allowing a first-inning RBI sac fly from Dean Palmer. The problem? Jeff Weaver (8.2 IP) and Doug Jones (0.1 IP) were even better, blanking the Twins’ bats all nine frames. Denny Hocking led off for Minnesota that day—perhaps a portend of what was to come—and went 0-4 with 3 Ks. Ouch.
The next day, knuckleballer Steve Sparks was matched up against Twins prospect Matt Kinney. This time, leadoff batter Luis Rivas (3-5, 3 R) provided a jolt to the lineup, supplemented by multiple hits from Doug Mientkiewicz & Cristian Guzman. But with the Twins up 5-2 in the bottom of the 8th, knocks from Damion Easley and Brad Ausmus (who would later manage the Tigers from 2014-2017) off Bob Wells tied it up. Though Twins right-fielder John Barnes gunned down a Detroit baserunner at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, Palmer—him again—got the game-winning single off LaTroy Hawkins.
If you thought the first two games of the series were entertaining, the season finale would ultimately prove to outdo them both. For starters, Detroit’s jack-of-all-trades Shane Halter pulled the ‘ol Caesar Tovar routine and played all nine positions during the contest. The Twins sent (in order of appearance) J.C. Romero, Jack Cressend, Travis Miller, Jason Ryan, & Wells to the mound—and all were touched for runs. Fortunately, batters Rivas, Hocking, Torii Hunter, Mientkiewicz, and Jacque Jones all recorded multiple hits.
Heading into the bottom of the 9th, the Twins clung to a 11-10 lead. Not exactly your taut, nail-biting one run game, but even the final inning of the season would prove interesting. Everyday Eddie Guardado immediately surrendered a long ball to Dusty Allen, followed by a double and a single. Danny Mota entered for Minnesota at that point, but before an out could be recorded allowed a Hal Morris single, scoring Swiss-army knife Halter.
Despite being swept by the Tigers to end the 2000 season, those final three games provided some exciting baseball for fans to enjoy. The ending of 2020 promises much of the same, albeit with (hopefully) a very different result for the good guys. At least they won’t have to deal with Dean Palmer again.