MINNEAPOLIS - Six months of baseball, winning 101 games and going down as the most prolific home run hitting team in the history of Major League Baseball, and the Minnesota Twins don’t have much to show for it.
It wasn’t that long ago the Twins were popping champagne, drinking beer and celebrating their first American League Central Division title since 2010. Monday night was their first playoff game at Target Field in nine seasons, and it was also their last game of 2019. Like they did five previous times, the New York Yankees finished off a sweep of the Twins with a 5-1 victory in front of more than 41,000 fans at Target Field.
There was no talk of Yankee mystique or intimidation. They were just simply better than the Twins for three straight games.
“We just went out there and we were outplayed for three games. It’s OK to acknowledge that. We’ll be back,” Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli said.
The Twins lost their 16th straight playoff game Monday night, and 13th straight to the Yankees. The Twins haven’t won a playoff game since 2004. They’re now tied with the Chicago Blackhawks from 1975-79 for the longest postseason losing streak among the four major sports.
The Twins are also the first 100-win baseball team to be swept in a division series.
Their greatest assets of the 2019 season, hitting for power and scoring runs, became their biggest weakness against the Yankees. The Twins were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position Monday night and just 3-for-28 over the three-game series.
The Twins’ lone run Monday night came on an Eddie Rosario solo home run to center in the bottom of the eighth.
“We don’t hit, that was the key. We’re a better offensive team than what we showed those three games,” said designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who went 0-for-4 Monday night and took a called third strike to end the game.
The Target Field faithful were ready to explode early as former Twins greats Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer were the battery for the ceremonial first pitch. But they had to wait a while to have something to cheer about.
The Yankees took the early 1-0 lead on a Gleybor Torres solo homer to left in the second. It was one piece of a big night for Torres, who also had two doubles and made a sliding defense stop to end a Twins’ threat later in the game.
The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the third after Gio Urshela got a lead-off double and scored on Brett Gardner’s single to left. On the play, Miguel Sano was originally in the right spot for an inning-ending groundout, then shifted to his left only to have the ball go by him on his right.
They were the only runs starter Jake Odorizzi allowed in five innings of work. Odorizzi scattered five hits while striking out five and not issuing any walks on 82 pitches, 53 strikes. It was a good enough effort to get a win after Twins’ pitchers had major struggles with walks in two losses at Yankee Stadium.
“I just kind of did what I did 30-plus times this year. Just here it is, let’s go and if you beat me, you beat me. If not, we’re going to be in a game,” Odorizzi said. “That’s about as much as I can say to that.”
“Jake threw the ball great. I don’t know what we could’ve asked for more from him,” Baldelli said.
The Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the seventh after Torres started the inning with a double and scoring on a Didi Gregorius single. It felt like a steep mountain to climb with the Twins unable to cash in on their own scoring opportunities.
The real gut punch was in the bottom of the second. The Twins loaded the bases with nobody out. Sano hit an infield pop-up, Marwin Gonzalez struck out swinging and Jake Cave struck out looking to end the threat without scoring.
The Twins had two runners on in the third, but Mitch Garver struck out to end that threat. A Twins’ threat in the fifth ended with Rosario hitting a sharp grounder to short right field. Torres made a sliding grab and threw Rosario out by inches to end the inning.
Luiz Arraez got a one-out double in the sixth. Sano followed with a laser to right that Aaron Judge made a leaping grab on, and Gonzalez sent a fly ball to the warning track to end that threat.
The Twins finished with nine hits and made plenty of solid contact, but it was always at a Yankee defender in the clutch situations.
“I think we played our game tonight. I thought if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down playing our game and we did exactly that,” said Garver, who finished 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts.
The Yankees delivered the knockout blow after Rosario’s eighth inning homer.
Cameron Maybin hit a towering solo home run to left, the first of his playoff career, to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead in the ninth. Torres got another double, and scored on a Gregorius single down the right field line to make it 5-1.
The game, and the season, were effectively over. The Yankees ended things for the Twins just like they had five times before: In 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2017. The Yankees out-scored the Twins 23-7 in the series.
“Our guys should be walking out of that clubhouse with their heads held high. They never stopped playing, our guys continued to fight day in and day out. We got beat over the last three days and there’s no way around that,” Baldelli said. That’s going to happen from time to time, but what an amazing season it was.”