Same Old Story: Another Abject Postseason Failure
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsOver the past two regular seasons, Minnesota has gone 137-85, winning 62% of their games and capturing back-to-back division titles. In the postseason, those same teams have gone 0-5, extending the franchise's streak of postseason futility to 18 games while rarely even making the Yankees or Astros or sweat.
The Twins have trailed almost constantly in all of these games. They are not dramatic affairs. These teams aren't getting outplayed by high-caliber opponents that are stepping up. It's bad baseball and a chronic deluge of self-inflicted pain.
One thing that was different this time around was the quality of starting pitching: Kenta Maeda and José Berríos both brought it on the big stage. Nearly everything else, however, was all too familiar. A lineup that went completely silent, with key figures disappearing. Defenders failing to execute in critical spots. Normally reliable relievers lapsing at the worst possible moments.
Yes, the Twins had their share of misfortune, with Josh Donaldson unavailable for the series and Byron Buxton unable to start the second game. That's certainly been a recurring theme in their endless playoff struggles. But good clubs rise up and overcome. I mean, the Houston team they faced off against in this latest series was without its bona fide ace and single most valuable postseason asset in Justin Verlander.
Here are just a few of the characteristically vexing blunders I counted in two losses against Houston:
- Tyler Duffey, who never allowed four baserunners in an appearance all season, gave up three hits and a walk (plus the game-tying run) in his one inning of work Tuesday. He finished his outing by issuing a leadoff walk in the eighth to Jose Altuve, who posted a .629 OPS in the regular season. Duffey now has a 2.31 ERA and 0.94 WHIP ratio in 80 regular-season appearances over the past two years. In four postseason appearances: 3 ⅔ IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB.
- Jorge Polanco, a 2019 All-Star whose game has taken a massive step backward this year, was especially flat. He went 1-for-7 with a single at the plate, and committed the most costly gaffe of the series when he failed to cleanly deliver a throw to Luis Arraez 15 feet away at second base, leading a decisive three-run inning for the Astros.
- Sergio Romo, a heralded postseason performer who's generally been effective for the Twins, was on the hill for said three-run inning. While Polanco's error didn't help him, Romo also didn't help himself. He gave up two hits and a walk while recording just two outs, and the walk brought home the go-ahead run (for the first time in MLB postseason history – another ignominious record for the Twins). Oh, and it was the weak-hitting Altuve who drew that walk, his second of the game.
- Eddie Rosario, known for his big-game theatrics and clutch moments, went 0-for-7 at the plate before getting himself ejected in the sixth inning of Game 2. Batting fourth and fifth in the two contests, he was a total nonfactor at the heart of the order. It's likely that we've seen the last of Rosario in a Twins uniform, and if so, his career in Minnesota ends on a very sour note.
- Even Rocco Baldelli – whom I hold in high esteem as a manager – had a tough series. It's easy to judge in hindsight, but nearly every questionable decision he made failed to work out. Despite both starting pitchers looking stellar, he went to the bullpen early in each game – relievers couldn't hold ties or leads. He went through several relievers twice without ever turning to Tyler Clippard or Matt Wisler, who were among his most effective all year. He pinch-hit Mitch Garver for Ryan Jeffers early in Game 1, then pulled Garver for Alex Avila immediately afterward, leading to the eventuality of Willians Astudillo coming up as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth.
These were just a few notable lowlights from another collectively uninspiring and underwhelming all-around performance. The Twins failed to capitalize on any of the numerous mistake pitches that came their way, went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 men on base. They left the bases loaded without scoring in the first inning of both games. They ran into multiple outs on the base paths, squandering opportunities that were in short supply. Nobody other than Nelson Cruz drove in a run.
The Twins made things so easy on Houston that Dusty Baker almost never had to go to his bullpen, using only six total pitchers as long relievers cruised through successful innings.
These are just the indicators of a team that wasn't up to the task, and sadly that's been a perpetual reality for the Minnesota Twins in October (or, in this case, late September). It's unfortunate that the current coaches and players have to bear the weight of 18 consecutive postseason losses spread across 17 years, but they've done their part in contributing to it. So it goes.
There's always next year. Until then we can only sit and wonder how this cursed run of impossible ineptitude keeps on snowballing, and when it will ever end.
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- peterb18, jun, mikelink45 and 6 others like this