The numbers are like a slap in the face. They simply can’t be ignored.
Since Dan Gladden touched home to score the game-winning run in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, the Minnesota Twins are a combined 6-24 in the postseason. That’s a winning percentage of .200 — easily the worst in MLB over that span.
The next-worst team is the Cincinnati Reds, who’ve won five of 16 games in that time frame — a .313 winning percentage. The Reds are also the only team who have won fewer playoff games than the Twins in that stretch.
That stretch includes a 2-15 (.118) record against the New York Yankees. Only one team has a worse winning percentage against the Bronx Bombers in that stretch. That’s the team they swept in the 1998 World Series, the San Diego Padres (0-4).
The history isn’t good for teams coming back from being down 0-2 in a series, either. According to Matt Kelly of MLB.com, 10 teams have ever rattled off three wins in a row after being down 0-2. Most recently, the Yankees came back to beat the Cleveland Indians — the same ones who had a 22-game winning streak during the season — in the 2017 American League Division Series.
From a recent CBS Sports article by R.J. Anderson, here is how every series with a 2-0 advantage has played out, percentage-wise, since MLB moved to a 2-2-1 format for the ALDS:
To save you the trouble of addition and to remove the rounding, 90.3 percent of teams (28 of 31) who took a 2-0 lead eventually won the series. Only 13 times has a Game 4 been necessary, and only four times has a Game 5 been needed.
The Twins are keenly aware of this, but frankly, have little to do with it. At most, all of the players on the current roster have been active for only three of the 24 losses, or in other words only 10 percent of that streak. A large part of that died out when Joe Mauer retired after the 2018 season.
But to be aware of the mounting pressure from fans to break the streak, and to really care about it are two different things.
Manager Rocco Baldelli, renowned for his consistent hands-off, laid-back approach, didn’t flinch when asked about balancing the narrative that affects the fans more so than the players directly.
“For me personally, for our group, there’s really nothing to balance,” Baldelli said during his media availability at Target Field on Sunday. “As we discussed a lot, our guys have approached every game from opening day until now in the exact same fashion. Obviously, we’re in the playoffs now, and the Twins have a history, just like every other team has a history, but our players don’t have a history. So as far as it being on anybody’s mind, it’s just not.
“For us, we will answer the questions when we’re asked, but I’m pretty sure the answer is going to continue to be the same. Our guys are going to be ready to go tomorrow, and that’s really where it ends. It’s just preparing for the game.”
Overall, the Twins are just happy to be home — and happy to let their fans give the Yankees a taste of their own medicine.
“(New York) was exactly like what we thought it would be,” reliever Trevor May said. “Playoff games in New York are kind of the top of the noise level that you’re going to get. We knew that going in. I tried to kind of take it all in, and you don’t know how many opportunities you’re going to get to play a meaningful game like that there.
“As a kid that grew up a baseball fan, that was something I tried to think of as cool at first and then get a little bit of that chip on the shoulder and get prepared for a game.”
May was also reminded of this history of teams behind 0-2 in a series, and used that to affirm what Baldelli said about how things have remained the same in terms of preparation regardless of the situation the team has been facing all season long.
“You don’t win 100 games without playing one pitch at a time,” May said. “If you read any sports psychology book ever, it always says to play in the moment. Live in the moment. It’s much harder to do than it is to say.
“It’s a long season. You get worn down. Your energy levels don’t necessarily get back up to 100 percent after some point, but this is something I’ve never experienced, but one thing that I personally tell myself is whenever I’m getting on that plane to go home, I want my battery to be at zero. I think everybody in the clubhouse is taking that same approach. At that point, there’s nothing else you can give. I think the fans here deserve that, I think the organization deserves that and I think your teammates deserve that.”
May also added that the clubhouse has remained exactly the same as it has all season.
“It’s the same at it always is,” May said. “Everyone is just kind of going about their business. It’s all about preparation for us. I think that Rocco set the tone early. So everyone’s doing the same thing they’ve always done. I think that treating a game differently is going to be detrimental, especially in a game of inches that baseball is. So I looked around and everyone is — same guys are smiling that usually smile. Same guys that are stone-faced are stone-faced. Same guys that haven’t said a word still aren’t saying anything. So it feels normal.”
If there’s any sort of exception to that rule, it’s Nelson Cruz.
“Nellie said something the other day,” May said. “He’s not necessarily a guy that’s long-winded, …but he kind of just said, ‘We’re the Minnesota Twins. I mean, they should respect that. We’re proud of that. We’re about to be in our park, and we’re going to hear our fans, and it’s going to be in our control. It’s time to go. How do you guys respond with your backs against the wall?’
“I know it personally got me going a little bit. As if I needed more motivation, but it’s one of those things like ‘don’t give us an inch because we’ll take a mile’ type thing, and I think that’s been something — when doors have been opened for us all year, we’ve exploded through them. So that’s what we’re looking to do.”
In keeping with the theme from all year, Baldelli termed Sunday’s team-wide workout as “extremely optional.” That’s something he’s done with the team all year, opting to place the accountability and preparation on the players’ shoulders while also insisting that they get the rest necessary to perform at the game’s highest level.
“We don’t really tell anyone what to do here,” Baldelli said with a smile. “We suggest things, but we told our guys, one, get some rest, take the day. Any of our guys that aren’t here, that’s not just fine by us, we probably encourage it ahead of anything else.”
For what it’s worth, virtually the entire active roster was accounted for in some shape or fashion on Monday — including two non-roster players in Ryne Harper and Willians Astudillo. With some other non-active 40-man types stashed in Fort Myers to be summoned if necessary, one might deduce that those two players would be the most likely to be added to the roster in a “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” situation.
Nevertheless, Baldelli said he wouldn’t be surprised to see most, if not all, of his pitchers coming in to get some work on Sunday.
“Some of the pitchers probably do want to throw, being that it’s an off day, instead of taking a total day off,” Baldelli said. “Some guys are going to want to come in and get a little treatment in the training room. We’ve tried to treat our guys with not just a ton of respect, but give them the responsibility of taking care of their bodies and then knowing what’s best for them.
“Today’s just another example of that. One thing we didn’t want to do was come in, have any sort of mandatory thing. I think it’s a good day, not just to physically rest, but get a good day of mental rest and come back ready to play. It’s how we’ve handled our stuff all year long, and, again, we’re not going to change now.”
If the Twins are feeling the heat, they sure aren’t showing it.
That won’t matter to Twins fans if they don’t take care of business in Game 3 — and quite frankly, Game 4 as well — however.