For years the Minnesota Twins pitching let them down in the postseason, but not this year. With ace-caliber pitching from Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios, the Twins were set to go on a playoff run. They won the Central Division for the second straight year, securing home-field advantage with the best record at home in the majors. But the Twins only scored two runs total in their best-of-3 series against the Houston Astros.
The Twins had their issues with injuries throughout the course of the season, and they did not stop once the postseason started. They were forced to play the series without Josh Donaldson, and Byron Buxton didn’t start Game 2.
But Minnesota should not have fallen apart offensively after losing two players, one of whom battled a calf injury all season. The truth is the Bomba Squad fell flat, and instead of putting it over the fences, they popped the ball up.
The pitching improved meaningfully this season. There weren’t more than a few handful of poorly pitched contests in the 60-game schedule.
They started the series against Houston with Maeda, who put together an amazing start that was paired with one run. Berrios did the same thing in Game 2, firing on all cylinders, making his early-season woes a distant memory.
Maeda pitched for five scoreless innings, allowing only five baserunners. Berrios gave up one run in five innings pitched with four strikeouts.
This has not been what the Twins have had in years past.
In 2017 against the Yankees, Ervin Santana gave up four runs and only finished two innings, blowing the three-run first inning lead the Twins generated off of Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario‘s home runs.
During the ALDS in 2019, a shaky bullpen and some fielding errors resulted in the Twins losing a 2-0 lead in Game 1. Minnesota would never lead for the remainder of the series.
After finally nailing their pitching rotation they were set for the Bomba Squad to blast them further in the playoffs this year. Instead, they were responsible for only two runs in 18 innings.
While the Twins had some firepower in their past two postseason appearances, they failed to deliver this year.
Twelve Twins players were left hitless, including rookie Ryan Jeffers, who was making an impact on the roster with Mitch Garver still making his way back from an intercostal injury suffered in August.
Nelson Cruz was the only Twins player with an RBI and was responsible for both runs the team scored in the series. And while they were able to collect a handful of walks, they never took advantage of men in scoring position.
In Game 1 they went five straight innings without a hit after Framber Valdez took over Zack Greinke. While there were a lot of questionable calls by both home plate umpires in this series, they affected both teams.
The Twins saw some good plate appearances from everyone in the lineup, and they just came out on the losing end of every at-bat that was high in pitch count. They have many players with potential, but the years of being able to blame postseason struggles on youth is over when most of the lineup has been with the club for at least five years.
This year was a struggle. With 60 games and best of three series, they can’t be blamed entirely. Most hitters in the lineup need 60 games just to start hitting consistently, and with injuries, most of those hitters — like Miguel Sano — were never able to get going.
Hopefully next year (I hate myself for typing that) they can put it all together and make up for ghosts of Twins past, putting an end to the streak.