CLEVELAND – It took seven years for the Twins to get to this point. Another hour didn’t matter.
The Twins lost to Cleveland 4-2 on Wednesday, ruining a chance to clinch the second American League wild-card spot on their own. So the Twins huddled in the visitor’s clubhouse at Progressive Field to see if the Angels would lose to the White Sox, which would get them in their first postseason since 2010.
And then the game went into extra innings.
“Kinda typical for the journey,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We had to watch extra innings to get it done.”
But Chicago’s Nicky Delmonico hit a two-run, walk-off homer in the 10th inning, giving the White Sox a 6-4 victory over the Angels, knocking Los Angeles out of the race and sending the Twins into a wild-card round game at New York at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (barring a last-week collapse by the AL East-leading Red Sox).
The Twins are the first MLB team ever to lose 100-plus game one season and reach the postseason the next.
Twins players, coaches and staffers were in the clubhouse watching the final hour of the White Sox-Angels game — sort of a pre-clinching party. The flow of beer turned into a flow of sparkling water once Delmonico connected. A spirited celebration began and carried on into the early morning.
“There is no back-door feeling to me,” Molitor said. “This is what these guys deserve.”
It will be the 12th time the Twins have reached the postseason. Only Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins remain from the 2010 team that last made the playoffs.
“This never gets old,” said Mauer, who smartly wore ski goggles to keep fluids out of his eyes. “We’re pretty excited. It’s been a heck of a year. A long time coming.”
The Twins wanted to win Wednesday’s game and not rely on the White Sox helping them out. But they lost to Cleveland as righthander Danny Salazar held the Twins to one hit and one walk over 4⅔ innings while striking out nine. The Twins were limited to three baserunners over the first eight innings before Jorge Polanco’s two-run homer in the ninth made it 4-2.
“Salazar was, obviously, really good,” Molitor said. “High-end velocity with breaking ball, changeup. We only had two hits going into the ninth. We got the tying run up there, which was good.”
Twins lefthander Adalberto Mejia was sloppy during his 3⅔ innings, falling behind 2-0 six times and throwing first-pitch strikes to only eight of the 18 batters he faced. He gave up a run in the first inning, then fell apart in the fourth. Three 2-0 counts. A walk to Jason Kipnis to load the bases. Then he hit Yan Gomes in the left ankle with a 1-2 breaking ball to force in a run and end his night.
Cleveland scored a run in the fifth on Eduardo Escobar’s throwing error. Then Yan Gomes’ homer in the sixth made it 4-0.
But the Twins can now look across the diamond at Cleveland as a team they could face in a week — provided they win the wild-card game. They are 6-2 against the Indians in Cleveland and like how they match up with the defending AL champs.
They can dream of such things now, now that they have completed an unexpected turnaround from last year’s 103-loss team to reach the postseason.
They just had to wait through extra innings into Thursday morning to celebrate. But by the end of the night, there were two mosh pits going at once — one at home plate in Chicago, the other in the visitor’s clubhouse in Cleveland.
“We were going to extra innings,” Brian Dozier said. “That would have been the biggest letdown ever [if the Angels won]. Everybody was drinking and having a good time.
“Nicky Delmonico is my favorite player.”