It's one ball game, and the Yankees were the better team, so they won. Pretty hot take right there, I know. But this wasn't like the Twins v. Yankees games of old where it ended with a late-inning homer or extra-inning heroics from the Pinstripes. Even if it's still a loss.
The analysis of why the Twins lost can go many directions. I think it comes down to the first inning (yes, which lasted 45 minutes). The big concern for the Twins coming in (OK, at least for their fans) was hoping the offense could do something, especially early, against the Yankees pitching which started with their ace Luis Severino and includes a dominant bullpen.
Twins needed early scoring. They got it.
I felt confident all the way that the Twins could make some noise with their bats. After all, they got to Severino a couple weeks ago for three early runs. Never mind that the Twins went on to lose that game 11-3. The Twins did what they needed to with the bats right away Tuesday night. Brian Dozier hit another leadoff home run, his 35th of the season and apparently the first postseason leadoff homer in Twins history. Dozier's energetic trip around the bases immediately sent a burst of energy through the dugout and undoubtedly fans all over Twins territory.
Eddie Rosario followed up with a two-run homer to make it a quick 3-0 lead. That's a pair of homers for two guys in their first career postseason plate appearances.
List of @Twins to HR in 1st career postseason at-bat:— Dustin Morse (@morsecode) October 4, 2017
Brian Dozier (2017)
Eddie Rosario (2017)
Gary Gaetti (1987)
Don Mincher (1965)#Elias
Eduardo Escobar singled and Max Kepler doubled to put runners at second and third with just one out in the inning. Advantage, Twins. That's when Yankees manager Joe Girardi lifted his ace and turned to his solid bunch of arms in the bullpen. Girardi was highly praised for this move after the game, though I thought it was a little over hyped. I understand why this was an unconventional move, but it's also a winner-take-all game, so the rulebook gets a bit skewed here.
Byron Buxton and Jason Castro each struckout to end the inning and leave two valuable runs in scoring position. It felt very much like a wasted opportunity, but it still wasn't so bad because the Twins still had that 3-0 lead.
A tale of two half innings
Then Ervin Santana came to the mound in the bottom of the inning. He walked leadoff batter Brett Gardner, and that unfortunately set the tone for the rest of the script. Rookie superstar Aaron Judge singled putting two runners on for Didi Gregorius. With a full count, a pitch from Erv got too much of the plate. The Derek Jeter replacement didn't miss, sending the ball to the right-field seats to tie the game with one swing. 3-3.
It seemed like a backbreaker at the time, and even morseo after the game. The Twins batters did everything right to get an early lead, and it was erased just like that in the bottom of the inning.
Santana, a pitcher who started the season with a near non-existent ERA and five complete games on the year, didn't have his best stuff. He last two innings, giving up a solo homer to pesky Gardner for a 4-3 Yankees lead in the 2nd. The Twins turned to Jose Berrios who went three innings and struckout four. He pitched alright considering the stage and situation. Unfortunately, he was tagged with the loss after a Judge two-run homer was the ultimate dagger for a 7-4 lead. The final run scored on a bases-loaded walk off the arm of Alan Busenitz.
An uphill climb versus the 'pen
The Twins couldn't solve the Yankees bullpen, which wasn't a huge surprise considering the success those arms had in September. As each inning passed, the task was tougher and tougher for the Twins to surge to a comeback.
Fans were treated to a Buxton highlight catch though, as he jumped up to snag a flyball against the center field wall. Unfortunately, he came out of the game a couple innings later with a back injury. There's always a moment of breath-holding when Buxton dives, leaps and crashes for his catches. They're great to see, but it's also potential for injury. Just be careful, Buck!
Just another game with a great @OfficialBuck103 catch. Standard stuff.#WereGonna pic.twitter.com/2Ku3IjHdlD— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) October 4, 2017
Buxton's replacement was Zack Granite, a native of Staten Island. His big moment of the game was forgettable. He hit a grounder and ran through - and over - the first-base bag. The fielder dropped the ball at the base, so Granite was alertly tagged out as he tried to scamper back to first base. Yes, this was not a proud moment. Though I would not agree that this was a major reason for the outcome of the game.
Tough ending to a great year
It was disappointing that the Twins weren't able to move on to face the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. It was disappointing to see this team lose to the Yankees in the postseason, yet again. It was also disappointing because so many didn't seem to even give the Twins a chance at all.
Still. You have to enjoy and applaud the 2017 Minnesota Twins season. They are the most improved Twins team in history, going from 59-103 to 85-77 for a 26-win improvement. It can't be said enough: They're the first team in MLB history to make the postseason a year after losing 100 games.
The Twins hit more than 200 homers this season, good enough for the third-best in Twins history. Guys like Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Dozier, Rosario and Escobar all had great seasons at the plate. Joe Mauer finished with a batting average over .300 and is a solid candidate for a Gold Glove at first base. Guys like Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger and Busentiz out of the 'pen turned into solid options for manager Paul Molitor.
There were walk-off wins, games with six and seven Twins homers, grand slams and overall just a winning atmosphere for a team that just wouldn't die. It was a great run in 2017. Remember that.