Heading into the 2023 postseason there were plenty of questions surrounding the availability of Royce Lewis. Less than two weeks ago, Lewis had suffered a hamstring injury that was deemed a three to four week injury. As he usually does, Lewis beat the odds, made the roster, and was named as the starting designated hitter for the Minnesota Twins in Game 1 of the Wild Card series.
Coming into the series. 24-year-old knew all too well about the 0-18 playoff losing streak that Twins fans had suffered through for the last 19 years. And if anyone was going to help the Twins break out of that losing streak, Lewis was the top choice to play the hero. After all, Lewis has been the one to be that hero throughout the season. Lewis has been the one coming through with big plays, clutch hits, and grand slams and never seeming to be afraid of a moment, no matter how big.
It didn’t take long for Lewis to show the believers that their faith in the right-hander was well warranted. In the bottom of the first inning, a hobbling Royce Lewis labored his way into the batter’s box, forcing a full count, before turning on a Kevin Gausman four-seamer for a blast into the left field bleachers to give the Twins an early 2-0 lead. The home run set the tone early and energized a crowd that needed to see its hometown nine get off to a fast start, as an early deficit would have surely made Target Field go anxious and silent.
As the game went on, though, it became pretty clear that this was going to be a close game and that the Twins could use some additional run support. After a trip through the order didn’t provide much of any offense, Lewis decided to take matters into his own hands once again, blasting another Gausman four-seamer, this time to the opposite field right-center, to put the Twins up 3-0 with a rolling Pablo López.
In the end, Royce’s two home runs provided the only three runs contributed for the Minnesota Twins en route to their Tuesday win. Royce contributed .243 WPA (Win Probability Added) to the Twins efforts and played an enormous role in bringing a victory to Minnesota.
While the stat line was impressive, what made the performance legendary was the context behind the stat line.
We all know about the 0-18: the heartbreak, the missed calls, the underwhelming performances. The Minnesota fanbase has suffered more than any other fanbase in baseball over the past twenty years and has been waiting for a player to step up, say "no more" and end the streak. This fanbase was waiting for a player who not only was unafraid by the big moment but one who reveled in the big moment, demanded the bat in those scenarios and delivered when the moment was the biggest. And for that player to be one who has overcome as much as Lewis has overcome makes the legendary status all that much more impressive.
Lewis overcame two ACL tears, overcame a late-season hamstring injury, overcame proclamations of a bust of a number one overall pick, and so much more.
Royce Lewis is still just 24 years old. He still has an entire postseason in 2023 and an entire career to play out. But tonight, Royce Lewis ended the longest playoff losing streak in professional sports history. He grabbed the giant gorilla off of the back of the entire Minnesota fanbase and threw it into the Mighty Mississippi. Tonight, Royce Lewis put his name up there with the greatest legends in Minnesota Twins history.
And he's just getting started.