Congratulations, Pedro Martinez! If the Yankees are your “daddy,” as you admitted out of frustration 15 years ago, you gained 25 new stepbrothers Monday.
The Twins closed their 2019 season the same way they concluded the 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2017 seasons: Wondering why they can never, no way, no how, manage to beat the Yankees in the postseason.
Gleyber Torres lashed a home run into the left-field seats; Brett Gardner hit an RBI single just out of Miguel Sano’s reach; Didi Gregorius threaded two run-scoring singles down the right-field line; and Cameron Maybin topped it off with a sky-high homer just past the left-field foul pole in the ninth inning. Meanwhile, the highest-scoring team in Twins history went weakly into the winter with 5-1 loss before an announced 41,121 at Target Field.
“We were outplayed for three games, and it’s OK to acknowledge that,” a philosophical Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They pitched better than us, they swung the bats better than us, and they defended better than us.”
As they always do. The Twins have lost 16 consecutive postseason games over the past 16 Octobers — the longest streak of futility in pro-sports history, tying the 1970s-era Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL — and 13 of the losses were to the Yankees. Go back a couple more seasons, and the Twins have lost 11 consecutive postseason home games, in two ballparks.
“We hit more than a handful of balls on the barrel, and didn’t have anything to show for it. [The Yankees] made several good, quality plays out there that helped them get through some innings,” Baldelli said. “No excuse there. We were beaten by a team that played better than us over these three games.”
Coming home made a difference in the tenor and competitiveness of the game, but not a dent in the outcome. Jake Odorizzi pitched five solid innings, giving up two runs on five hits, walking none and striking out five. He threw 82 pitches and retired the final four hitters he faced, and if it was a mid-June weekday outing, it would be a perfectly acceptable, average start.
It wasn’t Odorizzi’s fault, far from it. Torres’ home run cleared the wall by inches, and the Yankees’ second run was a product of Jake Cave’s ill-advised dive to catch a Gio Urshela blooper to left, turning it into a double. That put Urshela into position to score on Gardner’s single, a grounder hit to the spot Sano had just vacated as part of a shift.
And the Twins bullpen, so spotless down the stretch, surrendered three more runs, bringing its total to 14 for the series.
The real culprit, however, was the Twins offense. The Twins hit .218 in the series, and some of their biggest bats were the most silent: Max Kepler was hitless in 10 at-bats. Mitch Garver was 2-for-12 with four strikeouts. And Sano was 1-for-12 with eight whiffs.
The Twins had their chances against Luis Severino and the Yankees bullpen, putting runners on base in eight of the nine innings. But they went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, including the ninth, when the game, and season, ended with Nelson Cruz watching a third strike from Aroldis Chapman go by.
And yet? “I do not sit here frustrated at all,” Baldelli said. “I am extremely happy and extremely proud. … We continued to fight, day in and day out. We got beat over the last [four] days, there’s no way around it.”
If hitting home runs was the Twins’ most memorable season-long habit, failing to deliver with the bases loaded was its nagging, lesser-known cousin. Both came into play Monday.
Eddie Rosario greeted an ailing Zach Britton in the eighth inning with a leadoff home run to straightaway center to briefly energize a sellout crowd. No other Twins player could reach the seats, though.
And no inning better sums up the Twins’ plight than Monday’s second, which set the tone for the night. Rosario opened with a double, Garver walked and Luis Arraez dropped a single to short left field, filling the bases.
But the Twins hit .217 with the bases loaded this season, second-worst in the AL, and sure enough, Sano popped out; Marwin Gonzalez swung and missed at a slider darting toward the dirt; and Jake Cave froze as an 89-mph slider crossed the inside corner for strike three.
“Just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy,” Martinez, a Hall of Fame righthander, said in 2004 after losing twice to New York in a week. After vowing that this year would be different, there’s a lot of hat-tipping on the Twins today.