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A better Sox ending than 2022

When Bobby Kielty whipped us into playoff fever!

Bobby Kielty #23 of the MinnesotaTwins Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

This week, the Twins wind down 2022 with a meaningless series against the Chicago White Sox—certainly not the way the organization or its fans wanted baseball to exit. Twenty years ago, Minnesota also finished up with the Sox—but to a very different tenor.

Coming into the final three games of the ‘02 season the Twins were sitting pretty (91-67), having already clinched the AL Central by a comfortable margin. The finale series against Chicago would be little more than a tune-up for the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 1991. After beating the Pale Hose on Friday night, I was in attendance—with my aunt and best friend from high school—for the next two games as the Twins (well, one in particular) whipped the fanbase into a playoff fervor.

Sat., 9/28/02

In a Mark Buehrle vs Kyle Lohse (who else would I have seen?!) matchup, the Twins got on the board first when Matthew LeCroy singled home Cristian Guzman. Lohse made the solitary digit hold up—until the top of the fifth brought a 2-run hit from Magglio Ordonez.

Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins
Couldn’t I just for once have seen Brad Radke?!
Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Heading into the bottom of the eighth the Sox still led 2-1, and Twins batters David Lamb and Corey Koskie quickly returned to the dugout without touching a base. But Michael Restovich singled to bring Bobby Kielty to the dish. Batting righty against the still-dealing Buehrle, one half of the Dusty Kielmohr RF platoon deposited the sphere into the Dome’s vampire seats in deep right-center—3-2 good guys!

Everyday Eddie Guardado came in for the final frame and walked the leadoff Sox batter (of course), but escaped unharmed for the Twins victory.

Sun., 9/29/02

In the regular season’s final tango, John Garland opposed Eric Milton. Again, the Twins jumped out to the early lead—this time via a Jacque Jones RBI double scoring Luis Rivas. Yet again, the Sox countered in the middle innings, tying the contest when Miguel Olivo tagged Juan Rincon for an RBI double.

Knotted 1-1, the bottom of the eighth again provided the decisive blow. After Lamb popped out and Dustan Mohr whiffed, LeCroy walked to put Kielty in the limelight almost exactly 24 hours later. Taking another mighty right-handed cut, Bobby sent a Mike Porzio offering “way back!” (as I’m sure John Gordon intoned) and over the CF fence—3-1 Twins! If I had to rate the loudest I’ve ever yelled at a baseball game, that moment would be top-five for sure.

In the ninth, J.C. Romero surrendered a double, walk, and wild pitch—but no Sox cleat clipped the irregular pentagon.

Athletics v Twins
Bobby Kielty: one-man wrecking crew!
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

I will never forget the excitement pulsing through myself, my best friend (& fellow Twins fanatic), and my aunt (she of the conduit to so many Dome contests). In those final two games of the improbable—from contraction to the playoffs—2002 season, roughly 63,000 Twins Territory faithful let the team know that even after a decade of futility, the Twin Cities was still a thriving baseball market. Bring on the playoffs—and Oakland Athletics—baby!