So odd. The Twins have transformed from being perhaps the most dominant home team in baseball postseason history to one of the worst the game's ever seen. In 1987 and 1991 the Twins went 11-1 in the Metrodome during the postseason, including 8-0 in the World Series. People waved Homer Hankies in celebration, but now use them to wipe away the tears from their distraught child's face. After tonight's game, the Twins have now lost an absurd 10 games in a row at home, eight in the Dome and two at Target Field. The old Met Stadium is spinning in its mall grave.
Inside and outside, under a teflon roof and natural skies, against Angels, Athletics and Yankees, in close games and routs, the Twins have lost in every possible manner. They've lost with Pierzynski behind the plate and with Mauer, with Santana on the mound and Pavano. A battalion of relief pitchers have squandered leads and a horde of hitters have left men in scoring position. They've had injured pitchers - Liriano in 2006 - and injured hitters: Morneau last season and this year. Ron Gardenhire remains the one constant. Poor Gardy. At this point it might be a good idea if he just decides before each game to get tossed in the sixth or seventh inning, because nothing good ever happens after that. They're a hell of a playoff team for five innings. If they played Little League, the Twins would be the Chinese Taipei of Major League Baseball.
At this point, my friends in New York take pity on the Twins. No one hates the Twins. What's the point? If they could, these Yankee fans would pin purple "I tried" ribbons on the chests of Twins players and give them a kindly pat on the head while telling them how they "play the game the right way." They'd follow it with a gentle kick to the ass before breaking out into a "Red Sox suck" chant.
Last night I didn't get home until 10 p.m. When I turned on the TV, I was a bit surprised to see the Twins leading 3-0 as the top of the sixth inning began. About an hour later it'd all gone horribly wrong. By the end of tonight's fiasco, I began to wonder if the Twins might be in another new park - say, in 2030, when Target Field is obsolete and the team needs a dome stadium - before they ever win another home playoff game.
It's even possible the impossible has happened: Twins fans might be just as pessimistic and fatalistic about their team's playoff hopes as Vikings fans.
Every Viking fan expects tragedy to strike in the playoffs. Anyone who had a shred of optimism finally learned after last season's NFC title game that to love the purple is to love pain. You could call it masochistic, but no one loves this pain, the torment that comes with Hank Stram's taunts, Larry Csonka's facemask, Old Man Willie's run, Drew Pearson's pushoff, Darrin Nelson's drop, 41-0, Gary Anderson's miss, taking a knee, and 12 men on the field. These moments leave scars. If Randy Moss ignites the team and they storm into the playoffs with a 12-4 record, fans will again go crazy for their favorite helmeted warriors. Yet nearly all of them will look toward the playoffs thinking, What in the hell will go wrong this year? Will it be a Favre interception or a Peterson fumble? Will it be a key holding call or a defensive pass interference? Will Childress screw up or a referee?
Twins fans have reached that point. Perhaps some talked themselves into dreaming of a Twins victory in four games.
"Well, the Yanks' pitching after Sabathia is a bit shaky. And Jeter's struggled all year. And Christ, Lance Berkman? He's done nothing."
But even if they thought those things, they probably didn't verbalize the feelings, for fear that a wiser friend would remind them that the Twins never beat the Yankees in a series and, now, it appears, can never even beat them in a single game. No, now Twins fans watch these games waiting for disaster, in the field or at the plate. Or, as happened tonight, behind the plate. The details change but the story remains the same.
Now the Twins come to New York. Like last year, I'll probably again hear my neighbor cheer as the Yankees end Minnesota's season. Maybe they'll drill Brian Duensing in the first inning or maybe they'll rally against Matt Capps in the ninth.
But perhaps the Twins can pull off the improbable, if not the impossible. Win two in Yankee Stadium. Make the Yankees and their Jeter-jersey-wearing fans think of their own bad memories: the 2004 ALCS. Even this series back at 2. Yeah. It could happen. All they have to do then is win a home playoff game.