Well, it happened again.
The Minnesota Twins haven’t won a playoff game in almost 16 years, despite appearing in the playoffs seven times during that span. The latest in a lengthy list of postseason failures concluded Wednesday as the Twins fell 3-1 to the Houston Astros in MLB’s first-ever two-game sweep.
The managers and players have changed, but the results haven’t. Blown leads, late-game mistakes and dormant offense have now plagued the Twins in the playoffs for over a decade and a half.
To help cope with this misery in a weird, twisted way, we’ve ranked all 18 playoff losses, from least devastating to most devastating. What comprises emotional devastation, you ask? Well, it’s only the author’s opinion. In about half the games in this sordid streak, the Twins haven’t been remotely competitive. These are less emotionally taxing than games where the Twins put themselves in position to win before a bout of self-inflicted destruction.
With that criteria in mind, here’s the list, separated into three categories:
NEVER HAD A CHANCE
#18: Game 3, 2010 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 6, Twins 1
After falling behind in the 2010 ALDS 2-0 after losing two at Target Field, the loss in Game 3 felt preordained. Brian Duensing started the game, and the Twins fell behind 5-0 after four innings, giving the Yankees an easy clinch.
#17: Game 2, 2019 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 8, Twins 2
After losing Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, the Twins started rookie Randy Dobnak — he of just nine appearances during the season — in Game 2. What was supposed to happen? Dobnak struggled early and was replaced by Tyler Duffey. Duffey gave up a grand slam to Didi Gregorius to give the Yankees an 8-0 lead in the third inning.
This one was over early.
#16: Game 3, 2006 vs Oakland Athletics: Athletics 8, Twins 3
The Twins haven’t put up great fights in elimination games, and 2006 was no exception. After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Twins flew to Oakland and let the underdog A’s waltz to victory in a lopsided third game to eliminate one of the best Twins teams of the decade.
#15: Game 3, 2004 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 8, Twins 4
After two tight games at Yankee Stadium, the Twins returned to the Metrodome with the series tied at 1-1 and got shelled. Carlos Silva took the loss as the Yankees led 8-1 at one point, putting the Twins on the brink.
#14: Game 1, 2009 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 7, Twins 2
The Twins played one of the most emotional games in franchise history less than 24 hours prior when they beat the Detroit Tigers in Game 163. After taking a quick 2-0 lead in their series with the Yankees, the Twins tired and fell by a 7-2 score.
#13: Game 3, 2019 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 5, Twins 1
Playing their first home playoff game in nine years, the Bomba Squad was headed home to Target Field, where they’d mashed home runs all year. Instead, they went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and wasted a good pitching performance by Jake Odorizzi. The bullpen faltered late as the Yankees cruised to a series-clinching win. Rocco Baldelli after the game, “I do not sit here frustrated at all.”
#12: Game 1, 2019 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 10, Twins 4
The Twins have actually jumped out to some notable early leads during their playoff misery, including Game 1 last year in New York. A pair of early home runs gave them a 2-0 edge, but a key error in the third inning let the Yankees take a 3-2 lead, and they poured it on in the late innings for a 10-4 blowout.
HUNG TOUGH, SORT OF
#11: Game 2, 2010 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 5, Twins 2
There was supposed to be postseason magic in the opening year of Target Field, but the Yankees squelched any thought that their dominance over the Twins would end with a change of scenery. New York scored two in the seventh and one in the ninth to secure a 5-2 win and a 2-0 series lead.
#10: Game 1, 2006 vs Oakland Athletics: Athletics 3, Twins 2
After a storybook end to the 2006 season, where the Twins won the division title on the final day of the regular season, Minnesota had home field advantage in the ALDS and their ace Johan Santana going on the mound in Game 1. But Frank Thomas homered twice and the Twins bats went silent in a 3-2 loss.
#9: Wild Card, 2017 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 8, Twins 4
Making their first postseason appearance since 2010, the Twins hoped to exorcise their demons against the Yankees with a young, exciting team. Minnesota began the game with a bang, homering twice in the first inning and sending starter Luis Severino to the showers.
It took the Yankees all of one inning to erase that deficit with a three-run homer of their own by Gregorius in the bottom of the inning. The Twins lost their mojo from there as the Yankees surged to an 8-4 win to advance.
#8: Game 1, 2010 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 6, Twins 4
Another early 3-0 lead, blown.
In their first-ever playoff game at Target Field, a Michael Cuddyer home run lit up the crowd on a chilly October night.
Minnesota took their advantage into the sixth with Francisco Liriano on cruise control, but then it all came crashing down as the Yankees carved out four runs to take the lead. The Twins tied it in the bottom half, only to have Mark Teixeira respond with a homer in the seventh to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead. Minnesota ended up going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position in the loss.
Teixeira may be heard from later on…
#7: Game 2, 2006 vs Oakland Athletics: Athletics 5, Twins 2
Ah, the inside-the-park homer game. Tied 2-2 in the seventh, trying to tie the series at 1-1, Torii Hunter dove for a Mark Kotsay line drive, missed, and let Kotsay circle the bases. “I feel like less than a man right now,” Hunter said after the game.
#6: Game 2, 2020 vs Houston Astros: Astros 3, Twins 1
The Twins’ most recent defeat finishes in sixth. There will be nothing particularly memorable about this game down the road, only that it marked the 18th straight postseason defeat, extending the team’s North American record. Good pitching wasted, no offense, baserunning blunders. That about sums it up. Another elimination game no-show.
#5: Game 3, 2009 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 4, Twins 1
Down 2-0 in the series, the Twins were trying to find a way to extend the life of the Metrodome. Leading 1-0 in the seventh, an inspiring pitching performance by Carl Pavano got spoiled by two solo home runs, a game-tying shot by Twins-killer Alex Rodriguez and catcher Jorge Posada.
The Metrodome would never see another baseball game.
EMOTIONALLY AGONIZING TO THE NTH DEGREE
#4: Game 1, 2020 vs Houston Astros: Astros 4, Twins 1
The Twins’ infield defense was one of its best assets in 2020, but it failed them in an excruciating Game 1 loss against the Astros. With the Twins leading 1-0, Marwin Gonzalez couldn’t cleanly field a two-out groundball which opened the door for a game-tying single by the next batter. Two innings later with the score tied at 1-1, Jorge Polanco threw wide of the second base bag on a routine grounder, which allowed Houston to score three unearned runs on a bases-loaded walk and two-run single.
Oh, and Minnesota only generated two hits before the ninth inning, when it was too little, too late.
#3: Game 2, 2009 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 4, Twins 3 (11)
Where to begin with this one? Most know it as the Phil Cuzzi game for the umpire’s inexplicable miss of a fair-or-foul call on Joe Mauer‘s would-be double down the left field line. But before that, Joe Nathan served up a bottom of the ninth, two-run homer to Rodriguez that tied the game.
On to extra innings, where the Twins loaded the bases WITH NOBODY OUT in the top of the 11th. Standing on third base was Mauer, who singled to start the inning, but only after his double was nullified by Cuzzi’s poor call mere feet away from the play. Nonetheless, the Twins stranded three runners in the inning and practically begged the Yankees to end the game in the ensuing half inning. Teixeira obliged with a walk-off home run.
#2: Game 2, 2004 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 7, Twins 6 (12)
The last day the Twins won a playoff game was Oct. 5, 2004. The day after produced the first of Minnesota’s 18 consecutive losses and one of the most devastating.
In a back-and-forth affair, the Twins battled to tie the game with two runs in the eighth inning to force extras — the type of scrappy late-inning offense that recent Twins playoff teams have sorely lacked. In the 12th inning, Torii Hunter gave them a 6-5 lead with a solo home run, and it looked like the Twins were about to head back to the Metrodome with a 2-0 series stranglehold. Then Joe Nathan, in his first year with the Twins, got quickly familiarized with the way he’d be treated by the Yankees lineup for the rest of his time in Minnesota. After striking out the leadoff man, Nathan dealt back-to-back walks and then gave up a crushing ground-rule double to Rodriguez to tie the game.
The Twins haven’t won a playoff game since.
#1: Game 4, 2004 vs New York Yankees: Yankees 6, Twins 5 (11)
It’s hard to top 2004 for devastation level. Maybe 2009 comes close, but considering the Twins had a 1-0 lead in this series and had a good chance to advance, the losses hurt even more.
Most of Minnesota’s blown leads at the hands of the Yankees featured Rodriguez as a culprit, and though he was certainly involved in our No. 1 devastating loss, he wasn’t the main villain.
The Twins had a 5-1 lead in this game thanks to a big two-run double by Leeeeeew Ford, and they took that into the eighth inning with Juan Rincon on the mound, needing just six outs to force a Game 5. After allowing an RBI hit to Bernie Williams, Rincon faced DH Ruben Sierra with one out and two men aboard. Need three guesses to figure out what happened next? Sierra lifted a 2-2 pitch over the right field baggie to tie the game.
But it wouldn’t be a Twins collapse without A-Rod. The game went to the 11th inning after the Twins squandered two chances to walk off as winners. Rodriguez single-handedly manufactured a run in the 11th with a one-out double, followed by a stolen base, which put him in position to score on a wild pitch.
The Twins went quietly in the 11th to lose the game and the series. Sixteen years later, they’ve yet to figure out the Yankees, not to mention how to advance in the postseason.