Just an hour after their busy work schedules suddenly cleared right up Monday night, the Twins already were tossing away the accumulated debris and leftovers from one of the most memorable seasons in recent history.
Max Kepler pulled baseball gloves out of drawers and piled them into shipping boxes. Eddie Rosario reached into the upper shelves of his locker and emptied it of unopened packs of batting gloves. Jose Berrios took shirts off hangers in his locker and carefully folded them before placing them in a duffel bag. Luis Arraez pushed down on the lid of a box overstuffed with extra shoes.
“It ended too early,” Mitch Garver said, watching the abrupt clubhouse evacuation. “I thought we’d play a lot longer.”
It’s a lament that echoed throughout Minnesota, after a team that piled up 101 victories during the regular season couldn’t add even one in the postseason. The Twins had lost their previous 13 playoff games by an average score of 5.9 to 3.0, but vowed this year would be different.
They were right: It was worse.
The Twins were outscored 23-7, an average of 7.6 runs to 2.3, which represents the most lopsided postseason series the Twins have ever taken part in; it narrowly edges out three-game sweep to Baltimore in the 1969 AL Championship Series, in which they were outscored 16-5.
“It’s hard to explain. We had some good chances to take a lead, to keep the games close, and we could never seem to get the hit we needed,” Garver said of a series in which the Twins went 3-for-28 with runners in scoring position. “We kind of got used to [getting them] during the season.”
Ah, the regular season — 939 runs, a Twins record of 5.8 per game, 648 extra-base hits, the most in the majors, and 307 home runs, the most in baseball history. The Twins moved into first place on April 20 by sweeping a doubleheader in Baltimore, and remained there for all but one day the rest of the season. They grew their lead to 11 games by mid-June, lost three straight games only twice all season and four games just once, and posted the third-best road record (55-26) in modern history.
They won four games in walkoff fashion, once in the 17th inning, another on a Miguel Sano moonshot, and owned the second-best batting average with runners in scoring position over the season. The Twins could count on big hits to break down opposing pitchers in nearly every game — until the postseason.
Their ALDS count of extra-base hits: Six doubles and four home runs. Nine of the 10 came with bases empty, the lone exception being a Arraez RBI double in the ninth inning of Game 2, when the Twins trailed by seven runs with one out remaining. And none of the players who doubled was driven in.
“We hit some balls hard,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, “but it didn’t work out that we scored any runs.”
Still, most players said after the game, the way it ended will sting, but it won’t overshadow the season they had. You don’t work hard for six months, several players insisted, to be defined by 27 dreary innings.
“I’m going to remember what a great season it was, and what a great team we had,” Garver said. “The ending, not so much.”
Taylor Rogers, who emerged as the Twins’ closer after three years of setup roles, said the season felt like the start of an extended run.
“It was a heck of a year for the group. Aside from all the records that were broken, the camaraderie of the group really came along and built,” the lefthander said. “So that’s something that will be good for us going forward.”
Well, for most of them, probably. But not everyone will be a part of it.
As players and coaches went around the room hugging each other goodbye, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson stood by their lockers in the corner, taking one last look — just in case.
“You have to. You don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Odorizzi, who topped off the best season of his career by making his playoff debut Monday, contributing five strong innings, striking out five. Like Gibson, the Twins’ longest-tenured player, he becomes a free agent in a couple of weeks, and though he said he’d like to come back, “that’s really up to Derek [Falvey] and Thad [Levine, the Twins’ decision-makers].”
“It was a long season, a memorable one,” summed up Gibson.
“It’s a shame it’s over.”