Subdued tones are expected when a team is eliminated from the postseason. But the emotions of Twins players during and following their 3-1 loss to Houston to boot them from the American League Wild Card Series reflected a team that couldn’t believe its season was ending.
At the hands of a Astros team that was 29-31 during the regular season.
After two days of utter capitulation at the plate.
And absorbing a first-round exit for the second consecutive season.
“It felt eerily similar to last year,” said righthander Jake Odorizzi, whose only appearance came after Wednesday’s game when he went to the mound to reflect on a Twins career that might be over.
There was passion, frustration and reflection from the Twins on a day their season came to an end.
After Jose Berrios got George Springer to ground into an inning ending force out, the righthander had thrown 75 pitches while shutting out the Astros. But cameras caught manager Rocco Baldelli telling Berrios after he left the field that he was coming out, and the pitcher looked dejected.
Berrios had already made an emotional plea in the dugout to his hitters in an attempt to get them fired up after an increasing number fruitless at-bats. Did he want to stay in the game?
“So I felt good. I felt strong and healthy,” Berrios said. “But the one thing I keep in mind always is that we have a manager and we have a pitching coach. We have authority in our dugout. So whatever they decision they are going to make, I respect 100 percent. If they make that decision, I respect that.”
The Twins scored their only run of the game in the fifth inning, but Max Kepler took a called strike three and reacted angrily, swiping his hand upward before heading for the dugout.
But things went to another level when Eddie Rosario led off the sixth. He thought he had drawn a walk on a 3-1 pitch from Cristian Javier but home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez ruled it a strike. Rosario had started toward first but turned around, looked at Gonzalez and objected as Gonzalez pointed at the batter’s box. Rosario fouled off a pitch before striking out, and had choice words for the umpire. Gonzalez ejected Rosario on the spot, and Rosario, speaking Spanish to Gonzalez, slammed his helmet to the ground as he complained.
Rosario became the first Twins player to be tossed from a postseason game. He was not one of the six Twins players who spoke to reporters via Zoom when the game ended.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Gonzalez let Rosario vent after the 3-1 pitch but wasn’t going to allow him to continue his objections after more pitches were thrown.
“Manny Gonzalez is a very professional in the way he generally handles things,” Baldelli said. “I’ve known him a long time. I wish Rosie maybe was given some extra leeway. These are important games and being able to have all of your players and your staff members in these games are important.”
Groundskeepers, after the game, probably found sawdust around home plate from Twins hitters squeezing their bats so tightly. Marwin Gonzalez slammed his bat to the ground as he flew out to left for the first out of the seventh with a runner on first. Two batters later, Luis Arraez jumped on a first pitch fastball by Javier but flew out to center. He spun around and shouted at his dugout in frustration as he ran to first.
The Twins offense was not the offense of 2019 when it hit a record 307 homers. It was still a good offense in 2019, but it didn’t show up in the postseason, batting .119 in the two games they were favored to win.
“It is hard. It’s hard when you know you have the ability,” Baldelli said. “The Astros came right at us. They came right at us. They threw a lot of fastballs, too, in different parts of these games, and we weren’t able to make the adjustment.”