No-names ended Twins last 10-game losing streak

  • Updated: September 20, 2011 - 10:58 PM

Benj Sampson and Travis Baptist helped the Twins end their last 10-game losing streak.

Denny Hocking

Photo: JUDY GRIESEDIECK, STAR TRIBUNE

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On Sept. 20, 1998, the Vikings improved to 3-0 during a regular season in which they finished 15-1. Minnesotans everywhere were becoming enamored with Randy Moss, the rookie Super Freak. This was becoming a Purple-crazed town, only we didn't know it yet.

As such, people might not have noticed -- or you might not remember -- that on that same date, the Twins defeated the Tigers 3-0 to stop a 10-game losing streak. Thinking back on that date, though, had a certain sense of urgency Tuesday when it was determined this year's Twins had a chance to lose 10 consecutive games -- a streak unmatched since 1998.

Those who love baseball history, then, will hopefully enjoy a quick trip down memory lane as we remember the time the Twins stopped their last double-digit skid:

• The starting lineup: Otis Nixon, Brent Gates, Matt Lawton, Paul Molitor, Todd Walker, Pat Meares, Doug Mientkiewicz, A.J. Pierzynski and Chris Latham. If you think the lineup is frightening already, consider Mientkiewicz and Pierzynski were raw rookies who finished the year with a combined 35 at-bats between them.

• Starting pitcher: Benj Sampson. The breaking of the 10-game losing streak also involved perhaps the crowning achievement in Sampson's big-league career. It was his first MLB start, and he hurled six scoreless innings of three-hit ball with nine strikeouts. In fact, after that game, he had 10 1/3 innings of major league work and had yet to give up a run. In 1999, however, batters figured him out. He posted an 8.11 ERA and allowed 141 baserunners in 71 innings. Sept. 20, 1998, remains his only major league victory as a starting pitcher.

• Oddities: Denny Hocking replaced Walker -- who challenged for the batting crown for a while in 1998 (really, he did) -- at second base for defensive purposes in the seventh inning (not strange). Hocking, in his only at-bat, homered in the ninth inning to provide an insurance run (very strange). ... Meares was intentionally walked to get to Mientkiewicz. ... Two Twins pitchers were credited with holds: Eddie Guardado (not strange) and Travis Baptist (who?). Baptist pitched 13 games in his major league career, all in 1998 with the Twins.

• Final tally: Those 1998 Twins won 70 games. Would you put that lineup and starting pitcher up against this year's squad? Wild card: Rick Aguilera is your 1998 closer.

MICHAEL RAND

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