A 19-Year-Old Playoff Monkey Is Off The Twins’ Backs. How Far Can They Go Now That He’s Gone?
The Minnesota Twins won a playoff game? Won a playoff series? What?
David Ortiz was a Twin the last time they won an October series. That was 2004. So, now that they have evicted the monkey, what’s next? Should more success be expected, or was that it for this squad?
Winning one playoff series shouldn’t be cause for overwhelming excitement normally. Well, in Minnesota it is. It’s a combination of joy and…shock. To be fair, I can’t say either of these two wins was expected. We have grown so accustomed to disappointment over the last 20 seasons that it would not have been much of a shock to see the crowd shots of the stands resemble the Rays’ crowds in St. Petersburg. I wasn’t sure anyone cared anymore. But they do still care. And, all of a sudden, October silliness like the Kansas City Chiefs and Taylor Swift coming to town is not the talk of the entire Twin Cities area. The Twins are. A deep, opportunistic Minnesota team that underachieved nearly all season long finally reached its potential and may have irrevocably changed how we see the franchise -and more importantly- how the team sees itself.
It was rather difficult to set aside their recent history when evaluating this team during the regular season. Lots of pitching, but could any of them truly be trusted in October? They traded away the league‘s best pure hitter in Luis Arraez for Pablo Lopez, a quality starter who may be one of the nicest, most engaging personalities in Major League Baseball. But did he have the “it” quality it takes to dominate when it really counted? So far, he has answered that question with an emphatic yes!
Carlos Correa ended up back with the Twins after a highly publicized off-season of signing with two other teams and then seeing those deals fall through.This was not exactly the kind of signing that gets the fans overly excited, which again, takes a lot around here. His leadership and defense have never been in question, but his low batting average and propensity to hit into double plays nearly every time he has the opportunity haven’t exactly made him a fan favorite, either. Two games changed all that.
Correa, with some significant help from Royce Lewis, is the reason the Twins advanced to face the Houston Astros, his former team. Without Correa, the losing streak probably gets to 20. He threw out the Toronto Blue Jays Bo Bichette at the plate in Game 1 and then delivered a bases-loaded single in Game 2 to give Minnesota the lead. He also recognized the opportunity for a pickoff because of the crowd noise a day later. The pickoff of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at second base in the fourth inning ended that threat. His value under this contract should never be a concern again.
The fact that the Twins waited until the day before to name Bailey Ober as the starter is an indication of both the Twins’ depth in the starting rotation and a newfound confidence in Ober. As all pitchers are in the playoffs, his leash will be short, but his performance in September earned him this start.
Confidence is the most important factor that this Twins team now has an abundance of and that’s huge. Instead of separating themselves from the history of futility, they embraced it and overcame it. Their last opponent is now the team asking all the questions instead of the Twins. Brand new territory!
A week ago, most of us laughed to ourselves at the possibility of facing the defending champions and feeling like the Twins had a shot. Now, all bets are off. The Astros are resurgent, although they do not look as dominant as they have in the past. The Twins, showing off their newfound confidence, could win against Houston. They all know it. We all know it. This is no guarantee. But, winning another postseason battle is not nearly as difficult to imagine as it was just six days ago.