One year ago, the Minnesota Twins put their gear on the shelves, packed up their belongings and headed to their homes for a long winter; they had just missed the postseason by one run and one game. A year later, the Twins are on the other side, they have made the playoffs by one run and one game, and they are the 2009 American League Central Division champions.
Last Thursday the odds seemed bleak; the Twins would need to gain two games in three days to have a shot at the division. What seemed impossible on Thursday became reality on Sunday when the Twins finished their 162-game schedule tied atop the division. For a second straight year, their season would come down to one game, and the implications were clear: win and go to New York, lose and go home.
Long story short, the Twins beat the Tigers. In one of the greatest baseball games in recent memory the Twins walked-off with the division in the 12th inning to capture their fifth Central Division title.
The time for celebrating was short, after a near five-hour game, the Twins had little time to celebrate before boarding a flight headed in the direction of Yankee Stadium that eventually landed around 3 am.
According to baseball people around the country, the Twins don’t have a chance. That however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People said the Twins didn’t have a chance when they trailed the first place Tigers by seven games at the beginning of September, and they said it was surely over when Justin Morneau’s season ended three weeks ago. Yet today the Twins stand as one of eight playoff teams and one of four possible representatives for the American League in the Fall Classic.
Beating New York will not be easy, but it isn’t impossible.
Three keys to the ALDS
Splitting in New York: The Yankees without a doubt have the upper hand as the series kicks off; the first pitch is 15 hours after the Twins arrived in New York, and veteran C.C. Sabathia will take on rookie Brian Duensing.
For the Twins, key number one is splitting in New York. A victory in game one or two will assure at least two games under the roof of the Metrodome, a stadium begging for some final magic. Splitting will provide hope as the team returns to Minneapolis for a Sunday game, and it’d also provide a great opportunity to win one at the Dome and force a Game Five, where anything can happen.
There is no hiding that the Minnesota Twins went 0-7 this season against New York, but the four Yankees victories at Yankee Stadium came by a combined five runs. One play could have changed any game, and the Twins weren’t far off.
The second key to winning the ALDS is playing freely. Throughout the past month the pressure clearly didn’t affect the roster, and the Twins can’t let it get to them now. They must leave it on the field, and not be scared by one of baseball’s best teams this season.
In the clutch
In being swept by the Yankees at Yankee Stadium by a combined five runs, the Minnesota Twins went 4-for-38 with runners in scoring position. A few hits could have changed the entire series.
The third and final key to winning the ALDS is coming through in the clutch. Whether it’s a star like Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, or Michael Cuddyer, or a less-known name like Matt Tolbert or Alexi Casilla, the Twins must capitalize when they have chances.
After 163 games the Minnesota Twins are in the playoffs. When things seemed bleak the Twins came through, and while they don’t stand a chance in the eyes of many, history shows that anything is possible.
There are the 2007 Colorado Rockies for example, who after a tiebreaker victory, made a run all the way to the World Series, and then there are the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, who won the World Series with 83 victories.
For six months the Twins have played for a chance, and after a hard-fought fight down the stretch, they now have one. It’s time to lay it on the line, because in the playoffs anything can happen.