DENVER – There were small chats in the Twins' dugout and bullpen Sunday about their potential playoff opponent for the first round of the postseason, but it wasn't the main topic of conversation.
Most players shrugged when they were asked whether there were any designated scoreboard watchers. Many players didn't bother trying to decode all the tiebreaker scenarios.
As the Twins entered the later innings of their 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies in their regular-season finale at Coors Field, word started to spread they will play host to the Toronto Blue Jays in the best-of-three wild-card round. Game 1 will be at 3:38 p.m. Tuesday at Target Field with Pablo López and Kevin Gausman as the expected starting pitchers.
"I don't think we were worried about who it is," Twins infielder Kyle Farmer said. "We like our team."
In six meetings this season, the Twins posted a 3-3 record against the Blue Jays with all their games played during a two-week stretch over late May and early June.
The Twins believe they are a much different team than they were in the first half of the season. Things started to click offensively after the All-Star break. As manager Rocco Baldelli reflected on the regular season, he credited rookies Edouard Julien, Royce Lewis and Matt Wallner for not only playing well, but "I think they inspired the rest of the group around them, too, in some ways."
After the All-Star break, the Twins posted an .808 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, which trailed only Atlanta and Houston for tops in the majors.
"It definitely didn't come together how we wanted it to come together in the beginning," catcher Ryan Jeffers said. "If we played like this the whole year, we're probably sitting on the No. 2 seed and the [first-round] bye. But we really put it together down the stretch."
In an on-field postgame interview after the Twins clinched their division title, Farmer promised an end to the franchise's 18-game playoff losing streak. It is Farmer's first year in the organization, but he had no hesitation about guaranteeing a win.
"Sure. Why not?" Farmer said. "If you don't believe it, don't play."
There have been Twins teams that avoided mentioning the postseason losing streak. They had no control over what happened before they were on the team. This group isn't necessarily embracing it, but some of their new players aren't afraid to bring it up.
"The 2023 Twins were built differently," López said. "We're a different breed. We're going to go out there and show everyone what we can do. We can take on anyone. We've got arms to get people out. We've got offense to put runs on the board. It's going to be fun."
Twins starting pitchers carried the club throughout the year. They combined to throw the fourth-most innings in the majors (895) and yielded a 3.82 ERA. San Diego was the only team that had a lower ERA from its rotation.
The Twins view their bullpen as a strength. Closer Jhoan Duran, Griffin Jax and Emilio Pagán combined to give up five earned runs over 31 innings (1.45 ERA) in September. Louie Varland and Chris Paddack saw an uptick in velocity and turned heads in moving from starters to relievers for the playoff run.
"It's one of the deepest groups I've been a part of, and I've been a part of some very, very good bullpens in the big leagues," said Pagán, who has been in the playoffs with four teams. "Everybody seems to be throwing the ball really well, and it gives you a good feeling going into the playoffs."
Many Twins role players had big moments throughout the year. Willi Castro changed games with his speed and defensive versatility. Donovan Solano and Farmer provided a steady presence. It has been a breakout year for Jeffers, and Max Kepler bounced back in a huge way.
"Everyone stepped out of line for a few weeks this year," Baldelli said. "Took over games and won several games, almost in a row, for us. Everyone took their turn doing that once or twice. It's not normal. It's been a very abnormal season, but in a good way."
Almost all playoff teams are playing at least somewhat well at the end of the season, but the Twins posted an 18-10 record (.643 winning percentage) after the start of September. They had an 8-1 record in their past nine series. Their only misstep was dropping two of three games to Tampa Bay.
Internally, the Twins believed the hardest part of their schedule was front-loaded to the first half of the season. They turned a one-game lead over the Cleveland Guardians at the trade deadline into a division they won by nine games.
"We don't have aspirations to just win the division and to play in October," Jeffers said. "We want to do something special this year. We know we have the team to do it."