It was late, my eyelids weighed 5 pounds and the Twins appeared destined for a stinker when they fell behind the Chicago White Sox 8-6 in the 12th inning this past Tuesday.
Bad loss. Time for bed. Goodnight. Silly me.
If this season has taught us anything, it’s that making assumptions about this Twins team makes you know what of us. The Twins scored three runs in the bottom of the 12th to add another memorable night at the ballpark to their collection of greatest hits.
Different story Saturday night.
Another shaky outing by Jose Berrios and an uncharacteristic dud by Taylor Rogers left Target Field booing a 12-5 stinker against the Kansas City Royals. A loss by Cleveland made the kick in the shins less painful because the magic number dwindled to four.
Work remains before the organization can spray beer as division champions, but this out-of-the-blue summer of bombas has served as a personal pivot point.
This season has made me enjoy baseball again, not just tolerate it or worse, ignore it. A surprise party and a welcome-back party rolled into one.
I’d long forgotten how summer felt with a relevant baseball team in town. So many dreadful seasons made Twins games the opposite of appointment viewing. They merely served as a countdown clock to Vikings training camp. Out of sight, out of mind, just put us out of our misery when subjected to an endless supply of bad, boring baseball.
That’s how it felt. Summer 2019 has brought the other extreme.
Baseball became interesting again. I’ve probably watched more Twins games this season than the last five years combined. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but these Twins have been fascinating to follow because of both their sizzle and imperfections. They’re never boring, that’s for sure.
Few things in sports match unexpected success in generating excitement. So many unexpected developments converged for the Twins that a case can be made that a half-dozen players deserve team MVP honors (Nelson Cruz is my choice), and another half-dozen earned some other special distinction.
I mean, who had heard of Luis Arraez before the season? Now, you’re shocked if he doesn’t get a hit in a key situation. And Mitch Garver’s 31 home runs as a part-time catcher? Absurd.
So many interesting story lines and personalities, but every road leads back to home runs. Bomba Squad isn’t a nickname, it’s their identity, and perhaps their only hope in the postseason given the state of their rotation.
The historic home run production was like a snowball gaining size and momentum. An organization not known for power suddenly obliterates baseballs, up and down the lineup. Sure, the way baseballs are manufactured nowadays deserves an assist, but who cares? This is not guaranteed to be duplicated next season so enjoy it while it lasts.
The Twins are a weirdly complicated team. Crazy power, suspect defense, boatload of injuries, flawed pitching (first bullpen, now starters) … and yet, they own the fifth-best record in Major League Baseball.
Followers have spent considerable time and energy agonizing over the warts while the team roars closer to 100 wins. Twins fans have an uncanny ability to blend cheers with doom. Call it tortured enjoyment.
Angst is understandable though. The rotation is remarkably thin for a team in this position. The list of injuries grew ridiculously long, forcing manager Rocco Baldelli to use his Rochester lineup at times. Frequent defenses lapses deserve a facepalm emoji.
The team’s resilience has been tested over and over. They keep responding with a performance or a moment that shows their competitive spirit. The professionalism that exists inside the clubhouse is difficult to quantify but easy to recognize and admire.
How many times since July have you uttered this sentence: “That was the biggest win of the season.” Like 15 times, right?
The Twins likely will need a few more in that category to close the deal in the AL Central because Cleveland has displayed a champion’s moxie in fighting to the finish.
October baseball looms. That has a nice ring to it after years of irrelevance.