That's the Twins' active postseason streak. Feels pretty good, huh?
After nearly 20 years of instant heartbreak, the Minnesota Twins muscled out a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, in a complete, all-around team victory that sent a sellout Minneapolis crowd into total and complete frenzy when Donovan Solano's diving stop and flip to first finally ended the most infamous on-field affliction in franchise history.
It took everybody.
Most of all, it took Royce.
The demons were there. They have to be, to be beaten. An error on the first play of the game sent those all-too-familiar shockwaves through the stadium.
But in an electrifying first inning, the Twins faithful immediately gave 100%. Doing their best to rattle a laboring Kevin Gausman -- including Cueto-esque chants of address -- the home crowd observed as 2023's version of the Minnesota Twins grabbed the lead against one of the best pitchers in the American League, and refused to look back.
A patented walk from Edouard Julien set the tone -- until Royce Lewis said, forget the tone, I'm giving you the whole damn phone call.
It wasn't quite 24 hours ago that there was legitimate concern as to whether he could even DH as soon as today, and until 10:00 this morning that the official release of the Wild Card roster confirmed his presence. Hours later, his name was penciled into the #3-hole.
Shortly after that, he gave the Twins every run they needed in their first playoff victory since 2004, and literally -- this isn’t a joke -- screamed "I'm him" at the home dugout while Nick Gordon beat the crap out of the railing with a rally towel.
The fans were inspired. The team was inspired. Michael A. Taylor got the glove going, in a game that featured some game-saving, lockdown defensive plays. His second-inning grab off Alejandro Kirk set a different kind of tone, a tone of clarity — there were very few miscues, fundamental breakdowns, cracks in the facade. Everything felt rock-solid.
You know what else is solid? The bat of Royce Lewis.
Insanity. The kind of postseason performances that go down in legend. And, as I am loathe to admit, a good point made by Alex Rodriguez at the tail end of the clip — this is a #1 overall draft pick being fully realized by the franchise. He hasn’t had a chance yet to make a lasting regular-season impression, but you don’t need such a sample size in October. On one rainy afternoon, he became Minnesota’s first playoff golden boy in 20 years.
And as Royce Lewis provided the entirety of the offense, Pablo Lopez and the Twins defense did everything they needed to do. Pablo got the win, his box score not painting the entire picture of a very respectable outing. The Jays were held almost completely off the board, thanks in no small part to the kind of out-of-this-world defensive play Carlos Correa is known for, capping off the visiting fourth.
It was a totally understandable play for Bichette, who couldn’t have known that Correa was going to hit Mach 1 and back up the play after standing near second base when Jorge Polanco missed the grounder. Instead, he was toast at home, and Toronto was held scoreless until finally cracking across a sixth-inning run.
Lopez was given an opportunity to finish his inning — but a two-out walk to Alejandro Kirk, and an RBI single to Kevin Kiermaier, introduced hometown kid Louie Varland into immediate high-stakes playoff ball. Varland had to face Matt Chapman, who represented the go-ahead run.
Chapman gave it his all.
So too, once again, did Michael A. Taylor.
From there on out, it was classic October baseball, with a litany of Magical Arms pouring out of either Arm Barn. The American League strikeout leader Gausman only made it four innings. Five subsequent Blue Jay relievers kept Minnesota out of the action, allowing just two hits and three walks through the final five innings.
Minnesota’s pen matched them beat-for-beat. Caleb Thielbar rocked his way through a shutout seventh in relief of Varland. Griffin Jax struck out two in the eighth in a huge situation after surrendering a leadoff double.
And despite the minor distraction of a bases-loaded rally in the home eighth, the elephant was officially in the room. After firing on all cylinders for eight innings, the 2023 Minnesota Twins were three outs away from eradicating a generational blemish.
Enter Jhoan Duran.
Exit the demon.
If my math is mathing, this is the first-ever victorious postseason recap in Twinkie Town history. It feels extra-special to have sat through a great many of those losses on this forum — after all, with all the organizational changes from the owner’s box to the on-field product, this curse has really only been laid down onto the fans. They showed up tonight — and finally, the Minnesota Twins gave them something to cheer for.
Now it gets interesting.
Now, the Twins have a chance to set a date with the Houston Astros. For the first time since 2002 (not really counting the 2017 Wild Card Game), the Twins are in clinching position. A win tomorrow afternoon, with Sonny Gray on the mound, will punch Minnesota’s ticket to the American League Division Series.
We just handled 18. We can handle 12 more wins en route to a championship.
DH Royce Lewis (2-for-3, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, 2 HR)
CF Michael A. Taylor (1-for-3, multiple key catches)
Rocco’s Magical Arm Barn (3.1 IP, 1 H, BB, 4 K, 0 R)
You must be out of your damn mind.
ROBOT ROLL CALL:
At the time of publication, a dazzling 454 comments throughout this affair 20 years in the making. You guys rock — each and every one of you!
GO TWINS GO!