The Twins know what their path to success on the road looks like, because they’ve experienced it 55 times this season.
First, they request a wake-up call. Then they plan for room service. Then they tell housekeeping to come back at 2 p.m. There’s also a bus involved — although the No. 4 train to the Bronx might be in play this weekend as they open their American League Division Series in New York against the Yankees — and a walk to the visitors’ clubhouse.
Forget home-field advantage: The Twins have spent the season walking into opposing teams’ stadiums and walking out with victories. They finished 55-26 on the road (and only 46-35 at Target Field), tied for the third-most road wins in MLB history with the 1971 Athletics. Only the 2001 Mariners (59) and the 2018 Astros (57) won more games on the road.
“It’s been fun to watch,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That part of it has been more exciting on a day-to-day basis … We were one of the best road teams in the history of baseball. It takes a lot to get there. It takes a very special group of players to get to that point.”
The Twins scored more runs on the road than at home (497-442), hit more home runs (170-137), had a higher on base-plus-slugging percentage (.847-.816) and had a lower ERA (4.03-4.32) away from Target Field.
They have succeeded in ballparks where more fans jeer than cheer for them. It hasn’t mattered. They won road series in Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Boston. They swept the Rangers in a four-game series in August in Arlington, Texas.
Maybe they should stay at a hotel in Minneapolis before Game 3 on Monday at Target Field.
“We know how hard it is to play road baseball, to go on the road in any sport and win a game,” Baldelli said, “but to win that many games, to be that strong for the entire season, that’s one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.”
They will face their stiffest road opponent of the season this weekend in New York, which finished 57-24 at home this season, equaling its best home record since 1999. The Yankees finished 20-0-3 in their final 23 home series of the season, which includes taking two of three from the Twins on May 3-5.
But the Twins will enter the series well-rested and — they hope — as healthy as they can possibly be. Outfielder Max Kepler looks probable to play after recovering from a sore shoulder, and infielder Luis Arraez is healing from a Grade 1 ankle sprain.
Baldelli has no control over his players’ recovery time from injuries, but he can assist how they recover from games. If there’s an off day before a road series, the Twins will fly in a day early to allow their players to rest and get settled in before the series. It has cost them a day off at home at times — although players have the option of staying home during the off day with their families, then flying in the next day — it falls in line with Baldelli’s approach to keeping players as fresh as possible.
“Rocco, from the start of spring training, has been really good about getting us rest,” reliever Tyler Duffey said.
The Twins were 7-3 on the road following an off day during the regular season. When they had the option of flying in before an off day — not just enjoying an off day in the middle of a road trip — the Twins were 4-1. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but players such as Duffey believe it has helped them maintain their effectiveness. And more teams are adopting the approach.
“I think that’s a great thing,” bench coach Derek Shelton said. “You’re able to get relaxed. We don’t feel like we’re being rushed. I think there’s a lot [of teams] that are going to that, so I think you can attribute just that to it. I think it’s more of a credit to our players, but that can definitely help.”
The Twins flew into Newark International Airport late Wednesday afternoon and will work out Thursday in New York in preparation for Friday’s series opener. They should be quite comfortable in Yankee Stadium by then. If they aren’t, there will be a few people in the stands reminding them of where they are and their 13 consecutive playoff losses, 10 of them to the Yankees.
“I just think we might just enjoy disappointing people,” reliever Trevor May said. “And I don’t think there’s a better feeling than disappointing Yankees fans at their place.”