The Associated Press
CLEVELAND–From worst to wild card, the Minnesota Twins have completed a most remarkable reversal.
Their unexpected turnaround season has a new destination: the playoffs.
Unable to clinch on their own after losing 4-2 to the Cleveland Indians last night, the Twins earned an AL wild-card berth and a meeting with either New York or Boston when the L.A. Angels later fell 6-4 in 10 innings to the Chicago White Sox.
A season after winning just 59 games, the Twins became the first team to lose at least 100 and then make the post-season the following year.
October, here they come.
Moments after the Angels lost, and almost two hours after they were beaten, Minnesota’s players, coaches, and manager Paul Molitor celebrated in their clubhouse with champagne and beer–dousing each other during a party that didn’t seem possible just a few months ago.
They threw on dark blue T-shirts, two-tone caps, along with the obligatory goggles before spraying each other down.
“It’s been awesome watching this team come together all season,” veteran first baseman Joe Mauer said amid the clubhouse chaos.
“This is the best sound in the world,” he added. “It’s been one of the most fun years that I’ve ever had.
“I like our guys. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work over the last few years.”
The Twins defied the odds, and they’ll now enter a tournament where are all bets are off and where one bad bounce or big inning can propel an underdog to the top.
They’ll play at either Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park in the wild-card game on Tuesday night.
Boston holds a three-game lead over New York in the AL East race.
The Yankees have been the Twins’ long-time playoff nemesis, eliminating Minnesota four times in the post-season since 2003.
But Mauer and these Twins don’t seem to fear anything.
“This is gonna be a fun couple of days getting ready for what’s next,” said Molitor, a Hall-of-Fame player now in his third season with the Twins.
“I like our chances,” he added. “It means a lot to all of us.”
The Twins reached the post-season for the first time since 2010 despite a lack of support from their own front office, which essentially wrote off the year at the trading deadline.
Minnesota dealt closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington and shipped pitcher Jaime Garcia to the Yankees just days after he arrived.
Minnesota’s clubhouse was shocked by the moves but instead of grumbling, the Twins started grinding. They ripped off six-straight wins in early August to trigger a 31-18 stretch that put them back in the wild-card conversation.
Their bats came alive, their pitching held up, and Molitor squeezed everything he could out of a young lineup that lacks star power but is deep and dangerous.
While the Indians, Astros, Dodgers, and Nationals–to name a few–may have more talent and certainly get much more publicity, the Twins quietly have become one those feel-good baseball stories.
“In an era when it’s either home run or bust, they’re a lineup that makes a lot of adjustments,” noted Indians’ manager Terry Francona.
“You don’t look at every hitter and go, ‘If we throw here, we’re good to go,'” he added.
“They can cover both sides of the plate. They use the whole field. They’re impressive.”
As his players partied, Molitor, a Minnesota native, got choked up several times as he described this stunning season.
“It’s part of your job as a manger to imagine what could happen,” Molitor said. “This year, it came to fruition.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”
Elsewhere in the AL, Houston bombed Texas 12-2, Oakland topped Seattle 6-5, and Kansas City beat Detroit 7-4.