The Twins might be the first American League wild card team in history to reach the postseason in a 162-game season with fewer than 86 victories. Given that simple fact about the 2017 Twins, who are currently 83-74, it’s not quite right to say yet that this is a great team.
But while these Twins may not be great yet, they sure have some magic in them.
Further evidence came Tuesday in an 8-6 victory over Cleveland that was dramatic, important and so very much a microcosm of everything good about the 2017 Twins.
Drama? Well, a team that had back-to-back walk-off wins earlier this month as it pushed toward a playoff spot might have outdone itself Tuesday. Brian Dozier’s two-out, three-run home run that made it 7-6 in the eighth inning wasn’t a walk-off but it felt every bit as thrilling as Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton’s game-ending home runs.
Important? Let’s start here: The victory reduced the Twins’ magic number to one with five games to play, clinching a tie for the second wild card spot. On a night when the Angels routed the White Sox, it kept Los Angeles from getting any ideas about or gaining any momentum toward a final week comeback. The Twins probably would have been fine even without that win in the big picture of the wild card race, but winning lets everyone breathe a little easier. Plus, the sooner they clinch outright, the sooner they can move on to fully preparing for the playoffs — resting players, definitively setting a pitching rotation, etc.
In addition, the Twins beat a very good Cleveland team that they could end up facing in the American League Division Series. After last week’s disappointment against the Yankees, getting a quality victory had some added weight.
A microcosm of 2017 as a whole? The two key themes to emerge from this Twins season are resilience and the dramatic evolution of several key players.
These Twins started the year with zero expectations after losing 103 games last season. They were written off countless times — most recently right at the nonwaiver trade deadline, when their playoff odds were around five percent and they traded away two veteran contributors. And yet here they are, on the cusp of becoming the first team in MLB history to make the playoffs a year after losing 100 games. That they clinched at least a tie in a game in which they had to use 10 pitchers because their 44-year-old starter got sick is pretty much perfect.
And that they got four hits from Eddie Rosario (perhaps the biggest breakout performer on a team full of them) … and that Dozier’s home run went to the opposite field, something he rarely did in the past … and that Dozier’s homer was followed by another amazing Byron Buxton catch, which was followed by a clutch Buxton single to add a massive insurance run … it speaks to what 2017 has been all about. The Twins haven’t fully arrived, but the arrival is very much in progress.
The magic of 2017 was in full display Tuesday. And now the magic number is one.