Minnesota Twins—2003


The haves and the have-nots were the story of the opening month of the 2003 season for the Minnesota Twins. Against the worst team in the league, the Detroit Tigers, the Twins were perfect. Against the best, though, they seemed helpless as Minnesota dropped all seven games it played against the New York Yankees.

Fortunately for the team, they were able to start the season in Detroit and had little trouble finishing off the Tigers, allowing only two runs.

Detroit had a win by the time the Tigers came to the Metrodome, but by the time this three-game series finished, Detroit’s record was 1-13.

In between, the Twins and Blue Jays met in a pair of series with the visiting team winning each of the games. And in between the two Toronto series, Minnesota faced its first formidable competition, going to New York to face the Yankees. The Twins were swept in their season series with New York last year, and they extended their losing ways to the Yankees, who won all three games in New York before coming to the Metrodome to start a four-game series the following week.

It didn’t take long for New York to establish the tone in these games. On the second pitch of the series opener, Alfonso Soriano sent a Brad Radke fastball into the left-field seats. Robin Ventura made it 2-0 with a home run in the second inning, and Raul Mondesi added another solo shot in the third. Roger Clemens, coming into the game with 295 career wins and a 2-0 record for the season, held the Twins to one run and five hits over six innings. By the time he departed, the Yankees had the game under control, having scored four in the sixth. Ventura hit his second home run of the game, this one with a runner aboard, in the seventh, and the Yankees cruised to an 11-4 win.

The second game, played on Saturday night, was the only one in which Minnesota gave the Yankees any real competition. Soriano again got the Yankees started, this time with a single to open the game. Soriano came around to score to put the Yankees in front. The Twins tied the game on Torii Hunter's two-out run-scoring single in the bottom of the inning, and Minnesota took the lead on a two-out rally in the fourth, when Bobby Kielty doubled off the right-field fence and A. J. Pierzynski brought him home with a single to right.

Joe Mays carried the lead into the sixth and received a boost from Hunter, who robbed Nick Johnson of a home run to center to start the sixth. Jason Giambi then walked, and Bernie Williams, batting lefthanded, hit a long fly to left-center. Hunter raced over and leapt in vain as the drive cleared his glove and went into the seats for a two-run homer and a 3-2 Yankees lead. Mondesi hit his second home run of the series in the seventh, and the final score was 4-2.

The Sunday game featured a matchup between New York’s Mike Mussina, who came into the game with a 3-0 record and an earned-run average of 1.64, and Minnesota’s Kyle Lohse, who had a 1.67 ERA to go with his 2-1 record. Soriano and Johnson hit line-drive singles on the first two pitches of the game, and Lohse then fell behind in the count to Giambi. On a 3-1 pitch, Giambi hit a long home run to center, and the Yankees were on their way to another win, this one by a score of 8-2.

A Monday afternoon game closed the series, and this game was the ugliest of them all for the Twins. For the first time, Soriano was not a first-inning catalyst as Twins righthander Rick Reed struck out the first three batters of the game. He gave up only a two-out double to Mondesi in the second and got John Flaherty to ground out to start the third. At this point, however, both Reed and the Minnesota offense began to unravel. Erick Almonte lined a double to center and went to third when Kielty fumbled the ball. Soriano hit a hard ground ball to Chris Gomez at third. Almonte held up initially, but he was able to come home as Gomez booted the ball. Soriano reached first on the error and came around when Johnson followed with a homer to left.

Almonte kept a fourth-inning rally going when he beat out a grounder to Gomez to bring Soriano to the plate with the bases loaded and two out. Soriano took a strike and then tomahawked a pitch into the left-field seats for a grand slam, and the rout was on. It ended in a 15-1 Yankees win, with only an eighth-inning home run by Dustan Mohr off David Wells keeping the Twins from being shut out. It was also the only home run for the Twins in the seven games they played against the Yankees. Meanwhile, the Yankees pounded Twins pitchers for 16 home runs.

Next up for the Twins were series on the road against the two teams in front of them in the American League Central Division, the surprising Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox. The Royals won both games in Kansas City, sandwiched around a rain out, but the Twins took series opener in Chicago. However, the White Sox took the final two, dropping the Twins’ record to 10-14 and putting them eight games out of first place.

Fortunately for the Twins, their next opponent was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. With the haves out of the way, the Twins began their feast on the have nots, sweeping Tampa Bay on the final two days of April and the first day of May, in the process cutting into the lead and beginning the comeback to catch the Royals and White Sox.


The completion of the series sweep against Tampa Bay on May 1 was reminiscient of many of the Twins’ comeback wins in 2002: a rocky performance by the starter followed by sterling relief to stem the bleeding and give the hitters a chance to close the gap. Against the Devil Rays, Joe Mays was tagged for five runs over the first five innings, and the Twins trailed 5-3. Minnesota scored in the last of the sixth to cut the lead to one as Mays gave way to J. C. Romero. Romero, LaTroy Hawkins, Eddie Guardado, and Tony Fiore held the Devil Rays to just three baserunners over the next seven innings.

The Twins got the tying run to third base with one out in the sixth, seventh, and ninth innings. With one run already across in the last of the sixth, the Twins had Bobby Kielty at third and Todd Sears at second with one out. However, Luis Rivas grounded out with the runners holding, and then Jacque Jones grounded out to end the inning. Minnesota loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but Kielty lined out to Marlon Anderson at second, who flipped to Felix Escalona to double Dustan Mohr off second.

Finally, in the ninth, the Twins were able to come through, although they nearly ran themselves out of a chance to tie the game. With one out, Corey Koskie hit a line drive to center. Rocco Baldelli stayed back on the ball, then had to let in drop in front of him for a single. Mohr hit a drive to the gap in right-center that would have scored Koskie except it bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. After Torii Hunter was intentionally walked, Kielty hit a fly to center. First-baseman Travis Lee cut off Baldelli’s throw as Koskie came home and threw to Chris Truby, who tagged out Mohr coming into third, but the out was after Koskie had crossed the plate with the tying run.

Cristian Guzman tripled with one out in the eleventh. After Koskie was intentionally walked, Mohr flied out to shallow center and Hunter flied to right to end the inning. Tampa Bay got Aubrey Huff to third with one out in the thirteenth, but Terry Shumpert struck out and Javier Valentin grounded out to end the inning.

With one out in the last of the thirteenth, Jones hit a high fly to left-center. Baldelli let it drop between him and left fielder Carl Crawford. It bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. On a 3-2 pitch, Guzman hit a double to left-center to score Jones with the winning run.

The 13-inning comeback win put the Twins within five games of first-place Kansas City and started a run of successful series that extended almost until the end of May.

Heading east, the Twins won two of three from the Red Sox in Boston, then swept a three-game series in Tampa Bay before coming back to Minnesota for the start of a 10-game homestand. The first game, against Boston, matched Johan Santana, making his first start of the season, against Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez. Todd Sears drove in the first run of the game with a single in the last of the first and capped a four-run second with a three-run homer to right, his first major league home run.

Martinez gave up no more runs, but it didn’t matter as Santana and his successors held the Sox scoreless. Santana pitched five innings of four-hit ball. Hawkins, Romero, and Guardado followed with four innings of one-hit ball, and the Twins had a 5-0 win, which brought them to within a game-and-a-half of the Royals. Minnesota split the next two with Boston but dropped another game back and Kansas City, preparing to come to Minnesota for a four-game series, won its next two.

Kansas City took the series opener against the Twins to extend its lead to three-and-a-half games and held a 2-1 lead into the last of the ninth in the next game. However, Chris Gomez opened the last of the ninth with a single off Mike MacDougal, went to second on a wild pitch, to third on a deep fly, and home with the tying run on a single by Kielty. Dustan Mohr singled with one out in the last of the tenth. A. J. Pierzynski grounded to Angel Berroa at short. Mohr was forced at second, but Desi Relaford’s relay pulled first-baseman Ken Harvey off the bag. Harvey tried a swipe tag on Pierzynski, only to have the ball come loose and roll toward the right-field bullpen as Pierzynski continued to third. Todd Sears then ended the game with a home run to left-center to end the game.

Runelvys Hernandez, the Royals’ best pitcher over the first five weeks of the 2003 season, took the mound against Rick Reed in the third game of the season. The fourth inning was key in this one, starting in the top of the inning with Twins defense preserving a 1-0 lead. Dustan Mohr leaped to rob Michael Tucker of a home run to left. Torii Hunter then went back to corral a long drive to center by Joe Randa. After Carlos Beltran walked and Mike Sweeney singled, Raul Ibanez hit a drive to left. Mohr moved nicely to his right to snag the fly and end the inning.

Hernandez hit Matthew LeCroy with a pitch to start the last of the fourth. The pitch caromed off LeCroy’s ear flap and hit him in the face, breaking his nose. LeCroy walked off the field, and the incident appeared to have a greater impact on Hernandez, who walked the next two hitters. Minnesota scored three runs that inning, and Reed settled down and went the distance in a 7-0 win. The only excitement that remained after the pivotol fourth inning were angry words between the teams that eventually led to the benches clearing in the eighth inning, a result of the Royals taking umbrage at third-base coach Al Newman waving home Guzman with the Twins holding a large lead, and a post-game flasher, who leaned out a private suite and bared her breasts to a group of men in another suite while shouting a plea for the men to return the favor (which they didn’t).

In the series finale, on a Thursday afternoon, the Twins played catch up again, twice coming back from two-run deficits to tie the game, and having a chance to win it when they put runners at first and third with one out in the twelvth. With the infield at double-play depth, Jacque Jones hit a grounder toward the hole in left. Angel Berroa dove to his right to snare it and threw to Relaford for the force. Relaford’s relay just beat Jones for an inning-ending double play.

The Royals loaded the bases with no out in the fourteenth. Raul Ibanez dropped a single over a pulled-in infield into left to score Joe Randa. Tony Fiore relieved Johan Santana and gave up a sacrifice fly to Ken Harvey. Desi Relaford followed with a Texas League single to right and Berroa with a Texas League single to left, each scoring another run.

The four-game split left the Twins two-and-a-half back of the Royals, but that gap more than disappeared over the coming weekend as the Twins swept the Chicago White Sox while Kansas City was getting swept by Toronto. Minnesota maintained and built the lead on a west-coast swing, as they won two-of-three in both Oakland and Seattle, then came home to face the same two teams.

Oakland’s Barry Zito and Minnesota’s Kenny Rogers were outstanding in the first of a two-game series between the Athletics and Twins. With one out in the fourth, Koskie homered in to the upper deck in right, the first hit off Zito, for a 1-0 Twins lead. Miguel Tejada led off the seventh with a double to left. One out later, Ramon Hernandez hit a two-run homer to left. One out back-to-back doubles in the eighth by Eric Byrnes and Scott Hatteberg made the score 3-1.

With one out in the eighth, Mohr doubled off the right-field fence, the second hit off Zito. Zito hit Pierzynski with a pitch. Bobby Kielty hit for Rivas. He hit a long drive to left but foul, then worked the count full and fouled off a pitch before hitting a three-run homer, 417 feet to left.

Guardado retired the A’s in order in the ninth for his 14th save in 14 attempts, then converted another save the next afternoon as Minnesota completed a two-game sweep.

The Twins had yet to lost a series in May, but that changed as the Seattle Mariners, holders of the American League’s best record, won the first three games of a four-game series on the final days of the month. Still, the Twins held a three-and-a-half game lead over Kansas City and a six-game lead over the Chicago White Sox.


The Twins started June with another loss to Seattle at the Metrodome, a game the Mariners started with seven straight hits off Kenny Rogers. The 9-5 loss completed a four-game sweep but still left the Twins in first place by four-and-a-half games as they headed into interleague play, where the team seemed to regain its winning ways. Minnesota took two-out-of-three at San Francisco, then repeated the feat at San Diego and at home against Colorado. By this time, the first-place lead had grown to five games.

Minnesota and Arizona then split the first games of a weekend series at the Metrodome, then had a wild one in the rubber game. Arizona took a 5-1 lead on back-to-back two-out, two-run doubles by Lyle Overbay and Robby Hammock in the third off Brad Radke. The Twins got a run back in the last of the third and tied the game in the fifth when A. J. Pierzynski singled with two out and the bases loaded. Two runs scored on the single, and Kielty also came home when Quintin McCracken’s throw to third was wild.

The Diamondbacks got the lead back in the sixth with two more runs off Radke, both coming home on Tony Womack’s double,but in the bottom of the inning, Corey Koskie doubled home a run and then came around to score the tying run on two ground outs.

Rod Barajas opened the eighth with a single off LaTroy Hawkins. McCracken bunted in front of the plate. Pierzynski’s throw to second to try and force Barajas was in the dirt and both runners were safe. Matt Kata, making his major league debut, entered the game as a pinch runner for Barajas. Womack bunted down the third-base line and beat the throw to first for a single. Alex Cintron singled for one run. After Mark Grace struck out, Luis Gonzalez hit a sacrifice fly to left. Carlos Baerga dropped a single into left. The ball got by Jones for an error. Two runs scored on the play, one on the single, the other on the error.

It was the first series loss of the month for the Twins, but it started a streak as the Twins dropped their next three series, two of them against their primary competition in the Central Division, Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox. Following the series against Arizona, the Twins, still holding a four-game lead over the Royals, went to Kansas City for four games. Kansas City jumped to an 8-0 lead in the opener but the Twins battled back with late-inning rallies, tying the game in the ninth and having a chance to take the lead with arunner on second and no one out. They couldn't get the go-ahead run across, though, and instead the Royals pushed a run across in the last of the ninth to win the game. The next night the Twins got off to a 3-1 lead, only to see it disappear in a big way as the Royals scored 12 runs in one inning. The Royals won the third game of the series to pull within a game of the Twins, but Minnesota held its grip on the top spot in the division with a 16-2 win in the series finale.

The Twins went on to Milwaukee, where they dropped two of three to the Brewers before coming home for three games against the White Sox, a team that seemed lost only a few weeks before but was now making a strong move to get back into the pennant race. In the series opener, Chicago’s Esteban Loaiza won his 11th game of the year, pitching eight innings of six-hit ball and allowing only an unearned run as the White Sox won, 2-1. With Kansas City winning, the Royals, with a record of 39-34, moved percentage points ahead of the Twins, who were 40-35 at this point. The White Sox were only four-and-a-half games back of both teams.

Minnesota relied on a familiar formula for success in the second game, having their bullpen shut down the White Sox after Chicago took a 5-1 lead off Joe Mays in the fourth inning, thus giving the Twins a chance to comeback, tie the game, and eventually win in on a home run by Jacque Jones in the last of the 11th. Chicago won the next game, and the Twins fell out of first by a game as the Royals won.

At home against Milwaukee, the Twins—after splitting the first two games—appeared on the verge of losing their fifth straight series as the Brewers scored four runs off Rick Reed and held a 4-1 lead after five-and-a-half innings. Once again, the Minnesota bullpen allowed no more and the Twins, with a run in the last of the sixth and two in the ninth off Mike DeJean, sent the game into extra innings. They won it in the last of the 10th as Luis Rivas scored from second when Cristian Guzman beat out an infield hit with two outs.

The final game of the month, at Chicago, was a loss but the Twins snuck back into first place by a half-game as Kansas City dropped a doubleheader against Cleveland. However, Minnesota no longer had just the Royals to worry about. With the win, the White Sox finished June just three-and-a-half games out of first.

There was more, however, as the next day the White Sox pulled off a pair of trades to acquire all-stars Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett. Meanwhile, Kansas City was acquiring bullpen help, picking up righthanded reliever Curtis Leskanic from Milwaukee. The Twins failure to increase their lead in June wiped out a chance to finish off their contenders. Both the White Sox and Royals had been looking at dumping players if their teams weren't contending by the mid-point of the season. Instead, they went in the other direction.

The main failure of the Twins in their 11-14 June was a breakdown in starting pitching. Brad Radke was 0-2 with a 5.50 earned-run average for the month, which actually lowered his season. Rick Reed, missing the first half of June with injuries with a bruised back, was 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in three starts. Kenny Rogers, despite his drubbing by the Mariners on the first day of the month, won three games in June. Joe Mays was 2-2 during the month but was the team’s worst starter during that span, posting an ERA of 8.01 for the month.

On the other side, the hitting received a boost from the outstanding performance of Corey Koskie who had 40 hits in 98 at bats, raising his season batting average from .255 to .309. Walking 15 times during the month, Koskie’s on-base percentage, already good at .358, shot to .401 as he reached base more than 48 percent of his plate appearances in June. He also had five home runs. 21 runs batted in, and 20 runs scored.

The other bright spot was Justin Morneau, who made his major league debut June 10 and had a single his first time up. He finished the month with 15 hits in 54 at bats, including two long home runs, one at Kansas City and the other at Milwaukee.

While the Twins finished June in first place, they missed an opportunity to virtually put away the division title, a chance they will rarely see again.


The Twins lost to White Sox again July 1 and July 2. In the series finale, they blew a 4-0 lead but had a chance to win in when Kielty got his fourth hit of the game to score Rivas in the 11th. With two out in the bottom of the inning, however, slumping Paul Konerko homered off Eddie Guardado to tie the game. In the bottom of the 12th, Guardado gave up several long balls but survived most of them. Roberto Alomar hit one far but foul before walking with one out. Tony Graffanino sent Dustan Mohr to the warning track in left-center, but Mohr corralled the fly for the second out, bringing up Frank Thomas, who had gotten the White Sox on the scoreboard with a two-run homer earlier. Thomas, like Alomar, hit a long drive to left but foul. He worked the count full, then connected again. This one held the line, staying fair for a two-run homer to complete the Chicago sweep, putting the White Sox one-and-a-half games behind the Twins, who then trailed Kansas City by a similar gap. The White Sox had 12 home runs against the Twins in those three games.

The Twins returned home to open a four-game series with Cleveland. In the first game, C. C. Sabathia dominated the Twins with his pitching and irritated them with his own annoyance at the way Minnesota tried to reach base. With the Twins down, 3-0, Tom Prince tried bunting for a hit starting the fifth but was thrown out. Rivas tried the same thing and reached second when Sabathia’s throw to first was wild (Rivas was credited with a single, going to second on the error by Sabathia). Sabathia hit Kielty with the next pitch, prompting a warning to both teams by plate umpire Eric Cooper, then worked his way out of the inning.

With two out in the seventh, Cleveland had a runner at third with two out and Milton Bradley at bat. With a runner on second in the fifth, the Twins had completed an intentional walk to Bradley after Kenny Rogers fell behind, 2-0, in the count. It was likely the Twins wanted no part of Bradley again in this situation. Rogers, having thrown 103 pitches to this point, was ready to be relieved, so he took the opportunity to deliver a message to Sabathia and the Indians by plunking Milton. Rogers walked off the mound without a word as he was ejected by Cooper. Cleveland went on to a 4-1 win, the Twins getting slight satisfaction when Matthew LeCroy homered in the ninth to spoil his shutout. In the Twins locker room after the game, discussions seemed to indicate that the manager and coaches were unhappy with Kielty for not taking umbrage after Sabathia had hit him, thus leaving the task of retailiation to Rogers.

The Twins got off to an early lead in the second game as Justin Morneau connected for a two-run homer—his first home run at the Metrodome—off Jason Davis in the second inning. In the third, Corey Koskie made the score 4-0 with a two-run homer. The next batter was Hunter. An 0-2 pitch from Davis buzzed Hunter inside. Hunter took a couple steps toward the mound, pointing his bat and shouting at Davis, who came off the mound and bellowed back, “Get back in the box!” As the benches began clearing, plate umpire Matt Hollowell immediately signaled both Hunter and Davis out of the game. Both managers were ejected, as well. The field cleared, and Davis took some warmup tosses, then exploded when informed that he was out of the game. Meanwhile, Sabathia, in the dugout, began shouting and was ejected by first-base umpire Bill Hohn. The Twins went on to a 9-2 win.

Game Three matched the struggling Joe Mays against Cleveland’s Brian Anderson. Coco Crisp, for the third game in a row, bunted on the first pitch. The previous two nights, he beat out the bunts for hits, but this time Koskie was playing in and easily fielded the bunt and threw Crisp out, ending a streak in which Crisp had reached base to start the game seven times in a row. Mays fell behind Matt Lawton, 3-1, then got an off-speed pitch up. The left-handed hitting Lawton sent it the other direction, down the left-field line for a home run. Bradley walked, Shane Spencer doubled, Ben Broussard was hit in the foot with an 0-2 pitch to load the bases, and Casey Blake brought two of the runners home with a double to right-center. Tim Laker’s ground out scored another, and Cleveland had a 4-0 lead.

LeCroy homered in the second, but Cleveland scored another in the third, getting a two-out double from Broussard and a run-scoring single from Blake. Johan Santana—rumored to be in line to take Mays’s spot in the rotation—came out to start the fourth, but he was struggled, too. Santana struck out the first two batters he faced, then gave up singles to Crisp and Lawton and a home run to center to Bradley.

The Indians cruised to a 13-2 win. Blake continued his hitting with a double in the fifth, solo homer in the seventh, and three-run homer in the ninth to cap the scoring and give the former Twin five hits and seven runs batted in. Meanwhile, Bradley, with four hits and a walk, reached base five times for the second time in the series (he had a hit, hit batter, and three walks), and raised his on-base percentage to .451.

After the game, Gardenhire made it official that Mays would be sent to the bullpen with Santana taking his spot in the rotation. Both Gardenhire and Rick Anderson thought Mays’s problem with confidence. They said he showed good stuff in his throwing between starts and hoped he could get it together working in long relief.

The Cleveland series finished with another loss, even though the Twins had a 3-1 lead after six innings. Cleveland scored a run in the seventh, then tied the game in the eighth when former Twin Matt Lawton homered off LaTroy Hawkins. In the 10th, against Eddie Guardado, Shane Spencer hit an 0-2 pitch into the seats in left for a two-run homer to give Cleveland a 5-3 win.

The Twins did not win anotehr game until after the All-Star Game. Sweeps in Texas and Anaheim extended the team’s losing streak to eight and left then 44-49, in third place, 7-1/2 games behind first-place Kansas City and a half-game behind the Chicago White Sox.

The Twins came out strong after the break, sweeping a four-game series at home against Oakland, moving back into second place, and picking up two games on the Royals. They then split a pair of two-game series, against Seattle and Kansas City, before going to Cleveland and having more trouble with the Indians.

Minnesota took the first game of the series and then took a 2-0 lead in the second inning of the second game, only to have Kyle Lohse, winless since June 11, blow up in the bottom of the inning. Cleveland scored eight runs (seven of them earned) off Lohse and cruised to a 9-2 win. The next day, Eddie Guardado blew a save by allowing an unearned run in the last of the ninth. Cleveland finally won the game, and the series, on a two-out, bases-loaded single by Tim Laker in the 14th inning.

Back in the Metrodome to finish off the month, Minnesota split the first two games with Baltimore but appeared on the verge of losing the rubber game, trailing 9-7 with runners and first and second and two out in the ninth. But A. J. Pierzynski singled to score one run and send Doug Mientkiewicz to second. Michael Restovich then struck out, but Orioles catcher Brook Fordyce had the ball skip off his glove. The runners on base took off, but Restovich—possibly the only person in the Metrodome to not know that the ball had gotten by Fordyce—stood at the plate. He finally took off as Fordyce chased down the ball at the backstop. With Mientkiewicz rounding third, Fordyce threw to first. However, his throw skipped in the dirt and Jeff Conine was unable to handle it. Restovich reached first on the throwing error as Mientkiewicz scored the tying run.

The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the last of the 10th and won it when Jacque Jones chopped a grounder over Jay Gibbons, who had been brought in to give the Orioles a five-man infield. The Twins left 20 runners on, but came away with a win and pulled to 4-1/2 games of the Royals, who had just finished getting swept by the White Sox. The White Sox were the hottest team in the division and were only a game behind Kansas City after the sweep.

However, while the Twins prepared to open a series at the Metrodome against Detroit, the worst team in the league, Chicago was off to Seattle to play the West Division-leading Mariners.


The Twins continued their progress at catching the leaders in August, helped by the schedule. The Twins had games against Detroit, Baltimore, and Cleveland while the White Sox had to face Seattle and Oakland and the Royals against the New York Yankees.

Minnesota finished August with 18 wins and 11 losses, only their second winning month of the season (not counting March, when they played only one game). Combined with their games in the second half of July, the Twins went 27-16 from the All-Star break through the end of August. They went from seven-and-a-half games out of first down to one-and-a-half games, after having whittled the lead down to one-half game on a couple of occasions.

Facing Detroit twice and Baltimore once, Minnesota won seven of its first nine games in March. They then dropped three of four at home against Cleveland, going 22 innings without scoring in a 14-inning, 5-0 loss followed by an 8-3 loss in which the Twins were shutout until the ninth. However, Minnesota rebounded, taking two of three in Kansas City to pull within three games of the Royals. The Twins then took two in Cleveland while the Royals were getting swept in New York.

This set up a showdown—a four-game series between the Twins and Royals at the Metrodome. Coming into the series, the Royals, White Sox, and Twins, were bunched within a half-game of one another (the Twins holding third, one-half game behind Chicago and Kansas City). Splitting their four against Kansas City, the Twins fell another game back of Chicago as they embarked on a road trip to Anaheim and Texas. This journey in July was a disaster as the Twins lost six games without a win. This trip, however, was better as Minnesota took two-out-of-three from each team.


The Twins made the most of opportunities in September, continuing their hot play since the All-Star break and turning it into a memorable month.

Minnesota started with a series against Anaheim and split the first two games. The Twins trailed 5-4 in the rubber game, facing Troy Percival—a pitcher they had never scored an earned run off. They didn’t in this game, but still won. With two out in the ninth, Justin Morneau worked a walk off Percival. Mohr ran for Morneau. Shannon Stewart grounded a double into the left-field corner. Garret Anderson fired to shortstop Wilson Delgado, whose relay to the plate was scooped up by Bengie Molina. Mohr crashed into Molina, causing the ball to squirt out of his glove for an error and also breaking Molina’s wrist in two places. Mohr scored the tying run on the play and, as the ball rolled away, Stewart also scored to win the game.

With a loss by Chicago that evening, the Twins tied the White Sox for first place, both teams with a record of 73-66. It was the first time since the end of June that the Twins held even a share of first place. Minnesota and Chicago stayed together over the weekend, setting up a four-game showdown in Chicago. The Twins dropped the first two, but strong performances by Johan Santana and Brad Radke salvaged a split of the series, leaving the teams tied.

Minnesota headed to Cleveland. A win in the final game of the series put them a half-game ahead of the White Sox as the teams prepared for a repeat meeting, at the Metrodome.

The Twins were determined to take more pitches following comments by Chicago manager Jerry Manuel and players that the team was so undisciplined that the Sox pitchers needn’t hit the strike zone. The result: 17 walks in three games by Chicago pitchers as the Twins swept and opened 3-1/2 game lead. A sweep of the Tigers that weekend left the Twins on the verge of clinching the Central Division title.

The celebration came the on Tuesday night, September 23. At 9:23, the Twins finished a 4-1 win over Cleveland, reducing their magic number to one over Chicago and Kansas City. Fans stayed in the stands to watch the ending of the White Sox and Royals games on the scoreboard. At 9:54, the Yankees beat the White Sox, eliminating Chicago while also clinching the East Division for New York. The scoreboard switched to the Detroit-Kansas City game. Two minutes later, the Tigers completed their win, eliminating the Royals.

As the fans cheered, the Twins walked onto the field to celebrate their championship. The players waved to the crowd, while manager Ron Gardenhire carred the jersey of coach Al Newman, who was in a Chicago hospital recuperating from a brain hemorrhage.

The win that set up the clinch for the Twins was their 10th straight. They won again the next night before losing the opener of a season-ending series in Detroit. Meanwhile, the playoff matchups were set. As Boston clinched the wild-card spot in the American League, it meant that the Twins would be facing the New York Yankees, a team they hadn't beaten since May of 2001, in the opening round of the American League playoffs.

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