Now we know why the Twins let nearly 7,000 days go by with nothing but losses in the postseason. They were waiting for Royce Lewis to grow up and win one.
Lewis, a 5-year-old kindergartner the last time the Twins took a lead in a playoff series, jumped directly from the injured list to the winner's circle on Tuesday, smacking home runs in his first two postseason appearances as a professional.
As is custom in the postseason, the Twins' offense was otherwise largely absent, but Lewis' blasts were enough to end pro sports' longest postseason drought and deliver a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jays in the American League wild-card series at Target Field.
After 18 consecutive losses since Game 1 of the 2004 Division Series, "we have a new streak going now," Pablo López crowed after holding the Blue Jays to five hits and one run in 5⅔ innings.
"We're 1-0," López said, "and that's the one we want to focus on now."
Especially since they only need to stretch it to two in order to snap their eight-series losing streak and advance to a best-of-five starting Saturday in Houston. Sonny Gray will be on the mound for the Twins on Wednesday, and a tiebreaker would take place Thursday if necessary.
That's plenty more work for the Twins to do, especially if they intend to fulfill their boldest ambitions of a World Series in Minnesota. But there was little doubt that putting an end to the decades-old story line of futility — and for that matter, a 13-game home losing streak that stretched back to the 2002 playoffs in the long-since-demolished Metrodome — was cathartic for both the Twins and their stadium full of fans.
"I thought the place was going to split open and melt, honestly," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli marveled of the atmosphere created by the 38,450 in attendance. "It was out of this universe, out there on the field. The fans took over the game."
Well, so did Lewis. Just playing again, after a two-week absence because of a strained left hamstring, was a victory for the rookie, who was told by the training staff not to overextend himself running the bases, for fear of re-injury.
They didn't say anything about home-run trots.
"I'm just blessed to be a part of it. My heart was racing," Lewis said of his first career two-homer game. "I was just going off that energy and playing the game that I have loved this whole life."
The rookie received a loud ovation when he came to the plate as the Twins' designated hitter in the first inning. Those cheers, though, were but a whisper compared to the eruption that echoed around the park when the rookie infielder pivoted on a 3-and-2 fastball from Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman and drove it 10 rows deep into the left-field stands.
"He went up there looking for fastballs and got one," Gausman said with a shrug. "I missed my spot by three-and-a-half feet. Good hitters are going to make you pay for that."
The screaming liner also scored Edouard Julien, who had walked to start the inning.
Two innings later, Lewis, the newly crowned American League Rookie of the Month for September — seriously, he was informed of the award on the morning of his first playoff game — got an even more vulnerable fastball from Gausman, this one curving into the barrel of his bat. Lewis lifted it the opposite way, and it ricocheted off the facing of the upper deck in right-center field.
"One of a kind," Carlos Correa said of his fellow overall No. 1 draft pick. "It feels like he hits a homer every single day, every single time. He's truly a special talent, the type of talent that can carry you to win a lot of ballgames when the postseason comes."
With that, Lewis became only the third player in major league history ever to open his postseason career with back-to-back home runs, joining the Rays' Evan Longoria in 2008 and the Twins' Gary Gaetti in 1987.
"I'm also amazed by the things Royce can do, by the way," joked López.
The Twins never scored again, never even managed another extra-base hit; Toronto actually outhit them 6-5. But López and a quartet of Twins relievers — starting with Louie Varland and Caleb Thielbar, Minnesota natives first out of the bullpen before their victory-hungry home crowd — made it stand up.
"I've gotten plenty of texts like, 'Just don't make it 20!'" said Thielbar, who retired the Jays in order in the seventh. "It was pretty awesome. All three of the Minnesota guys [including outfielder Matt Wallner] got to play. That was a fun time."
And the sparkling defense made it even better.
Michael A. Taylor, for instance, came racing in to steal a hit from Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk in the second inning with a diving catch in short center field, a play that snuffed any chance of a big inning for Toronto. Taylor also ranged back to the center field wall just after Kevin Kiermeier singled home Toronto's lone run in the sixth inning. With two runners on and two outs, the outfielder prevented the Jays from tying the score by jumping to make catch Matt Chapman's near-home run.
Max Kepler made a catch at the wall as well, and Donovan Solano made a diving stop to end the game.
Perhaps most important of all, when Jorge Polanco overran a slow chopper at third base in the fourth inning and allowed the ball to roll past him, Correa rushed over to retrieve the ball, then fired it to the plate, where Ryan Jeffers tagged Bo Bichette out.
"Those kind of plays flip the game around," an appreciative Baldelli said.
Now, the Twins hope, their first playoff win in 19 years will flip around their postseason fortunes.
"I mean, I was a senior in [Randolph] High School in '04. I remember the [Twins' last win]," Thielbar said. "I've experienced everything that all the fans have, too. This was my team growing up. It's still my team. I know how people feel, and I know what weight was lifted off everyone's backs tonight."