The 2017 Twins are going to the playoffs. They deserve every right to pop those champagne bottles after a miserable 103-loss season in 2016. While they were poppin' bottles, I was knocking down Coors Banquets.
After knocking a couple of those fine pilsners, I realized we probably have to play the Yankees, in the postseason, at Yankee Stadium. Suddenly, I'm terrified.
However, the Twins have actually won a playoff game there. In fact, they've done it twice. The last time Minnesota won a playoff game was in 2004 – yes they have lost 12 straight postseason games – and I wanted to know how they did it.
So I watched the entire game back. Here's what made that win awesome.
1. Jacque Jones' emotional home run
Holy moly was this an emotional moment for Twins outfielder Jacque Jones. Just four days before, his father died and Jones had been away from the team to be with his family.
He took a red-eye flight and got into New York around 7 a.m., about 12 hours before first pitch. After striking out and grounding into an inning-ending double play in his first two at-bats, Jones came to the plate again in the top of the sixth and delivered what was probably the biggest hit of his life.
Just check out that "Wooooo" he lets out after rounding first base.
'I know he's excited,'' Jones said of his father after the game, according to the Associated Press. ''He's watching me like he always has, even when he was here with us.''
2. Stellar defense
Minnesota had reigning Cy Young winner Johan Santana on the mound. Santana was brilliant that year, leading the league in strikeouts, opponent batting average and innings pitched.
But he didn't have his best stuff in Game 1. He allowed nine hits in his seven innings of work and New York had runners in scoring position in the first, second, sixth and seventh innings.
The defense bailed him out, turning four double plays behind him. Perhaps the biggest one was early on in the third inning, when John Olerud flew out to center field and Torii Hunter gunned out Jorge Posada at home.
According to Baseball Reference's win expectancy, the play was the second biggest turning point of the game, with Jones' home run being the biggest.
Hunter earned his third consecutive Gold Glove Award in 2004. He was arguably the heartbeat of the Twins' roster during their division title runs in the 2000s, so it was fitting that he delivered a game-changing play.
3. The Twins' lineup got to a guy that owned them
Mike Mussina was pitching for the Yankees. He owned the Twins over the course of his career, posting a record of 20-3 against them entering Game 1.
Minnesota got to him a bit, racking up seven hits against "Moose," which proved to be just enough. Here's what the Twins' batting order was that day.
- Shannon Stewart, LF
- Jacque Jones, RF
- Torii Hunter, CF
- Justin Morneau, 1B
- Corey Koskie, 3B
- Lew Ford, DH
- Christian Guzman, SS
- Michael Cuddyer, 2b
- Henry Blanco, C
The top of the lineup was anchored by the "Soul Patrol." Long before Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler were saving runs for this year's Twins, the Soul Patrol was a staple in Twins folklore.
Justin Morneau was a rookie in 2004, yet he was batting cleaning to open the playoffs. Heck, he wasn't even with the club full time until late July, at which point he smacked a team-high 17 home runs over the final 67 games.
Koskie, Ford and Guzman were solid options in the lineup, but I totally forgot about Michael Cuddyer's tenure as a middle infielder. Don't get me wrong, he played well in Game 1, but second base was one of the many positions he completely failed at before sticking as a solid right fielder.
Why you should watch?
Did I mention this was the last time we won a playoff game? Minnesota has lost 12 straight postseason games, one off the Major League record of 13. I'm glad I was able to watch them win a meaningful game.
Although it's nearly three hours long, it's pretty exciting all the way through thanks to the double plays and Jones' clutch homer.