The Twins haven't played a postseason game since the day Alex Kirilloff made his major league debut, back in the 2020 wild-card round.
On Friday night, Kirilloff qualified the Twins for another playoff appearance.
The Twins first baseman hooked an inside fastball 10 rows deep into the right-field seats in the sixth inning, breaking a tie and helping the Twins earn the 2023 American League Central championship with an 8-6 victory at ready-to-party Target Field.
Also, the champagne. It drenched every goggle-wearing celebrant in the raucous clubhouse.
"This means everything," said Royce Lewis, a rookie who played a pivotal role in the Twins' second-half surge. "It's just the first step, but we did it together. It shows how much we mean to each other, and that matters."
The Twins will likely open the postseason with a best-of-three matchup against the third-best wild-card team on Oct. 3, with all games at Target Field. And more than one player mentioned a statistic they intend to erase.
"We're going to get that first win since 2004, I promise you that," said Kyle Farmer, who reached base four times on Friday. "This team has worked so hard for this."
Added Joe Pohlad, who runs the team for the family's ownership group: "This is just the start. We're going to see this [champagne celebration] again this year."
Despite blowing an early 3-0 lead, the Twins recorded their 82nd victory of the season, ensuring their first winning season since that 2020 pandemic season. But more importantly, they eliminated any possibility that the Guardians or Tigers could finish with a better record, sending Minnesota into the postseason for the 15th time in its 63-year baseball history.
The Twins are the champions of the AL Central for the ninth time and the third time in the past five seasons, and for the first time since 2010, they celebrated that fact at home. They also won four AL West division titles before the league split into three divisions in 1994 and a pre-division American League title in 1965.
"You can't deny what these guys do when they show up here every day," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "We feel like we're playing our best baseball right now. It's all we can ask for."
This championship was built, aside from the relative weakness of their fellow Central inhabitants, on the effectiveness of their starting pitching and the second-half surge of their offense — both factors in Friday's clincher. Pablo López retired 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced, and the final five in a row. In between, though, López surrendered a two-run homer to Jared Walsh and a tying RBI single by Nolan Schanuel.
None of it mattered, though, not with the Angels pitching staff unable to find the strike zone. The Twins drew a season-high 10 walks, two of them with the bases loaded and four of which eventually scored.
Still, the game was tied when Kirilloff stepped to the plate in the sixth to face reliever Davis Daniel. Kirilloff took a pair of outside pitches, one of them a strike, before ambushing Daniel's attempt to crowd him inside. The line drive easily topped the right-field wall, giving the announced crowd of 32,006 — which included 4,500 walk-up customers on a warm last-day-of-summer evening — a reason to celebrate.
The Twins added four more runs in the seventh off lefthander Jhonathan Diaz. That gave the bullpen plenty of cushion, so Logan O'Hoppe's into-the-planters two-run homer to left off Caleb Thielbar didn't quiet the crowd much. When two walks and two singles off Jhoan Duran loaded the bases and put the tying run on second base, the crowd grew audibly nervous. But Duran retired Brandon Drury, and the postseason-here-we-come shindig was on, full-blast.