Based on the postgame tears, hugs, and the thunderous roar of the crowd, one might have thought that the Twins had just done more than win one playoff game. But this was not just any win; last Tuesday the Twins had just broken “the curse” - an 18-game playoff game losing streak that was the longest losing streak of any team across all professional sports. This losing streak was so extreme that it had reached mathematically impossible heights: 69 billion to 1. Fans at Target Field wrapped each other up in big bear hugs, cried, and lingered long after the final out to take in the relief and joy of the evening. Words cannot describe how important psychologically it was for fans to finally be able to put this 0-18 narrative to bed.
Maybe you have never been a big baseball or sports fan, or maybe life has just gotten in the way and you are not up to speed about what the “hometown 9” are up to (if you REALLY don't follow baseball, this term refers to the number of players on the field at one time). If you have not had time to head down to Target Field or turn on the TV to catch a game this year, don’t worry - there is no better time to jump in and catch the Twins than now. Here’s why.
Unbelievable in-stadium atmosphere
I have been to many Twins games over the years, but the two playoff games I attended vs the Blue Jays this were unlike anything I have ever experienced. The crowd was into every single play, and the crowd, especially the lower deck, was on its feet for almost every pitch. The stadium echoed with a taunting “Gaus-man! Gaus-man!” whenever the Blue Jays’ game one starting pitcher, Kevin Gausman, was on the mound, and the crowd erupted with the loudest cheering I have ever heard after Lewis’ home runs. Last Wednesday, the stadium’s “Let’s Go Twins!” chant was so loud that it was crystal clear on the TV broadcast.
In the past, both Twins players and media members have criticized Twins fans for not being loud enough in the playoffs. That was far from the case in this series.
“When I tell you it was electric, it brought that electricity into my body,” Lewis said after last Tuesday’s win.
“I thought the place was going to split open and melt, like honestly,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Tuesday. “It was out of this universe out there on the field. The fans took over the game. They helped us win.”
So, if you want to witness the most exhilarating Twins game atmosphere fans have seen in decades, now is the time to tune in or attend a game. This playoff run could be historic.
This team is lovable
The Twins have always marketed themselves as a family-friendly and welcoming-to-all-fans team, but this year's roster is incredibly loveable. Pitchers Louie Varland and Caleb Thielbar and outfielder Matt Wallner are all Minnesota natives fulfilling their childhood dreams of playing for the hometown team. There is a hilarious nod to this during an in-stadium bit they show on the big screen in between innings where the non-Minnesotan Twins players attempt to pronounce a Minnesota city name like Wayzata, Shakopee, Bemidji, or Mahtomedi. At the end, Thielbar comes in and says the correct pronunciation. This bit is an adorable nod to Minnesota's uniqueness while recognizing Thielbar as "one of us."
There are a number of veteran Twins players who have played their entire careers with the Twins and come up through the Twins minor league system, and it’s rewarding to see their loyalty is paying off with this playoff success: Thielbar, Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton, and Jeffers. Polanco is the team’s longest-tenured member.
After Wednesday’s game, the infield was full of little kids running around as Twins players adorably chased after their kids, and many have held their young children during postgame interviews.
It is also heartwarming to see the amount of team chemistry the Twins players and coaches have. This is clearly evidenced by their home run celebration, a fishing vest that López bought at the start of the season emblazoned with “Land of 10,000 Rakes.” The vest is a nod to Minnesota’s lake life, and “to rake” means to hit the ball well. Whenever a Twins player hits a home run, he is greeted by his teammates when he gets back into the dugout with the vest, which he has to put on to celebrate. It is a lot of fun seeing grown men genuinely experiencing so much joy playing a kid’s game.
The Twins finally broke their 18-game playoff losing streak and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. This is rare (for them)
On October 3, in Game 1 of a best-out-of-three series vs. the Toronto Blue Jays, the Twins won 3-1, thanks to a dominant performance from starting pitcher Pablo López, Superman-like run-saving catches in the outfield by center fielder Michael A Taylor, and two home runs from rookie Royce Lewis, who wasn’t even able to play in the field after hurting his hamstring. This game
Then, the next day, the Twins won again, advancing into the second round of the playoffs. While this may not be a notable feat for some other storied fanbases, this is a big deal for us. So rare is it that the Twins have won a playoff series that the last time they did it was in 2002. Now, Minnesotans can hold their heads up a little higher after snapping these dreaded streaks. Have you tuned out the Twins because they “always lose” in the playoffs? No longer - your Minnesota Twins are packing their bags to head to Houston to take on the reigning champ, the Astros. And with the lineup we have, Houston, you have a problem.
This is the best Twins roster in 20 years
I’m not just saying that, either. This team is special. Even though it took until September for everything to really gel for the Twins, things have finally come together for the team just in time for the playoffs: players like Carlos Correa and Chris Paddack have come off the injured list just in time for the playoffs, the Twins are getting clutch hits at every spot in the batting order, team chemistry has never been better, relief pitchers such as Griffin Jax and Emilio Pagán who have struggled at times this season have completely bounced back to deliver impressive performances at the end of the year, and the Twins are showing a resilience that we have not seen in recent years by repeatedly coming back in games they are down.
This season, the biggest story has arguably been the dominance of the Twins’ starting pitching, which, in recent seasons, has traditionally been its biggest weakness. The Twins’ starting pitching rotation, consisting of Pablo López, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and Kenta Maeda, is the best rotation the Twins have had since 2004 (the year that Johan Santana won the Cy Young Award and Twins Hall of Famer Brad Radke posted the lowest ERA of his career). Both López and Gray made the All-Star game. Gray had a particularly exceptional season, finishing with a 2.79 ERA, good for third in all of MLB (ERA stands for “Earned Run Average”, or the number of “earned” runs your pitchers give up in a game – basically, all of the runs except the ones from the fielders behind you making mistakes). For context, an ERA between 2.00 and 3.00 is considered excellent and is only achieved by the best pitchers in the league). López finished in 23rd with an impressive 3.66 ERA.
The Twins’ relief pitching has been excellent, too- in particular, Jhoan Duran, the team’s typical 9th-inning closer. Durán is the fastest-throwing pitcher in the league; he threw a 104.8 mph fastball in July, the fastest of the 2023 season. Every time he enters the game, the Twins dim the lights and encourage fans to light up their phones. It’s unbelievably electric.
Overall, the Twins pitching staff finished 6th in MLB ERA. The Twins pitching overpowered the Blue Jays this past series, allowing only one run over two games.
The other major story this year has been the emergence of Royce Lewis, who has become the team’s standout star and the state’s pride and joy this season. Lewis hit a franchise-record four grand slams this season and became the fastest player to hit five grand slams (he hit one in 2022 before tearing his ACL and missing the remainder of the season) in MLB history. Lewis was MLB’s AL Rookie of the Month in September, and his success has carried into this postseason- he powered the Twins to their win on Tuesday by hitting two home runs. And he has a wonderful comeback story, too- Lewis has come back from not one, but two ACL surgeries and missed back-to-back seasons- struggles that he has faced with determination and zero self-pity. His positive attitude, leadership, and game-winning hits have endeared him to fans- at Wednesday’s game, the crowd rose to its feet each time Lewis went to the plate and greeted him with “MVP” chants. Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? Lewis is one to watch this postseason.
Truly, there is no weakness in the lineup- catcher Ryan Jeffers is both an excellent defensive catcher and hitter, having been in the designated hitter role at times this season when he wasn’t catching, which is rare for a catcher. After a turbulent start to the season, right fielder Max Kepler has completely turned things around and has had his best season in years. Center fielder Michael A. Taylor has brought his Gold Glove-winning fielding to Minnesota while hitting a solid .220 in the last spot in the order. Rookies Matt Wallner and Edouard Julien have been highly dependable starters in the outfield and at second base, respectively. I could go on and on.
They have a real shot at making a deep playoff run
In addition to the gift of good health and the stars aligning at the right time, this Twins team has a legitimate shot at a World Series title.
The path through the American League division is considered “wide open,” with no team on the Twins’ side of the bracket a clear front-runner (the National League side is another story). The first step is getting through the Astros this series. This is doable.
Indeed, the sky’s the limit for this team, and they have all the personnel needed to make a deep run- so said ESPN’s Jeff Passan, one of the country’s foremost MLB writers, on Tuesday night's Scott Van Pelt show.
Twins games are shorter and more action-packed than ever before
Are you someone who, in the past, has thought baseball was a little boring or, at least, that games drag a little by the end? No longer- now is the perfect time to get back into the game because this season, for the first time, Major League Baseball (MLB) has implemented a pitch clock, and it has had staggering results on the game- for the better. In the past, pitchers could take as they wanted to deliver a pitch. Now, after the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher, he has to deliver a pitch within 15 seconds if the bases are empty and 20 seconds with runners on base. If he doesn’t, it is a pitch clock violation, which adds an automatic “ball” to the current batter’s count, which is bad for the pitcher.
Traditionally, due to scores of pitching changes, the loud atmosphere interfering with player communication, and pitchers wanting to take deep, calming breaths during critical at-bats, playoff games in recent years have lasted around 4 hours. But game 1 of the Twins Wildcard Playoff series with the Blue Jays lasted only 2 hours and 40 minutes- blazing fast by recent measure. Game 2 vs. the Blue Jays lasted 2:51, above the season average, but still much faster than usual playoff games. Not only did implementing this pitch clock shave 24 minutes off the regular season average length of a game, but it also resulted in a spike in batting average and the most stolen bases in nearly 40 years. Thanks to the pitch clock, watching a Twins game, whether regular season or postseason, does not have to be an entire evening affair. October 10’s ALDS Game 3 at Target Field starts at 3:07 p.m., so you will walk out of the stadium or turn off the TV in time for dinner.
There are lots of other fun things going on at Target Field other than the game
I am not saying that to be a Twins fan, you must attend games in person, but boy, is it a lot of fun. But for those who may be less interested in the game, Target Field is packed with entertainment and food that will appeal to kids, non-baseball fans, and baseball lovers alike. Arrive early to take in the unique buzz of the playoff atmosphere—the right field concourse entertainment-central, with free minigolf, cornhole boards, and other activities. The Twins announced a list of new foods offered at Target Field during the playoffs, including their “Land of 10,000 Rakes Walleye Sliders,” a “Playoff Punch Cocktail,” and tater tot hotdish from Union Hmong Kitchen.
Target Field also offers an amazing amount of free indoor areas for fans, including Truly On Deck, the Townball Tavern, Hrbek’s, and Two Gingers Pub, where you can meet Sue Nelson, the team’s organist. Target Field is also hosting free watch parties for this weekend’s games in Houston.
So, whether you have never considered yourself a big baseball fan or just have not had the time to keep up with how the team is doing, don’t worry- now is the best time in years to reinvigorate your fandom. The Twins do not have a “bandwagon”- we have a fishing boat (this is Minnesota after all). Climb aboard, we would love to have you. Go Twins!
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Game 4 Target Field: October 11, 6:07 p.m. (FOX/FS1)
Game 5 @ Houston, if necessary: October 13, 7:03 p.m. (FOX/FS1)