Twins eliminated with 18th straight playoff loss

  • Senior writer of SweetSpot baseball blog
  • Former deputy editor of Page 2
  • Been with ESPN.com since 1995

The Minnesota Twins’ postseason losing streak has reached a stunning 18 games — and now their 2020 season is over. The Houston Astros eliminated the Twins with a 3-1 victory on Wednesday at Target Field, a disappointing finish for a team that had rallied to win their second straight AL Central title and finished with the best home record in the majors during the 60-game regular season.

The Twins’ playoff streak is not only a major league record, but is the longest in U.S. sports history. The NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks lost 16 straight playoff games from 1975 to 1979. Before the Twins, the previous MLB record belonged to the Red Sox, who lost 13 playoff games in a row starting with the infamous Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

The last Twins victory in the postseason was Game 1 of the 2004 division series against the Yankees, when they won 2-0 behind seven shutout innings from Johan Santana. Since then:

  • Three losses to the Yankees in that 2004 series.

  • Three losses to the A’s in the 2006 ALDS.

  • Three losses to the Yankees in the 2009 ALDS.

  • Three losses to the Yankees in the 2010 ALDS.

  • A loss to the Yankees in the 2017 wild-card game.

  • Three losses to the Yankees in the 2019 ALDS.

  • Two losses to the Astros in the 2020 wild-card round.

The Twins have led in 11 of the 18 losses, but have been outscored 107-48 overall – including 44-14 from the seventh inning on. The Astros scored three runs in the top of the ninth in Game 1 to win 4-1 and scored the go-ahead run in Game 2 in the seventh inning. The Twins haven’t scored more than four runs in any their past 15 defeats.

“We have a lot of guys in the clubhouse, but I’d say the vast majority of them don’t know the Twins’ history at all,” manager Rocco Baldelli said after the Game 1 loss to the Astros. “The people on this call certainly follow those types of things pretty closely. I’m sure the fan base does, too, one way or the other, but the players don’t. So no, I don’t think there’s really anything to talk about. I think if I brought that up, they’d probably look at me funny and wonder what the hell I was saying.”

Along the way, there has been some bad luck. In Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS, Joe Mauer hit what should have been a leadoff double in the top of the 11th inning when his ball hit the left-field foul line, only to have umpire Phil Cuzzi call it a foul ball. Mauer singled and the Twins followed with more singles, but failed to score and the Yankees won the game in the bottom of the 11th.

Last season, some late injuries left the starting rotation a little short-handed against the Yankees. This year, Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton were both injured in the final weekend of the season. Donaldson was left off the playoff roster due to a calf injury. Buxton, who was hit in the helmet by a pitch last Friday, started Game 1 but did not start Game 2 due to undisclosed physical reasons. He did enter in the eighth inning as a pinch-runner – and was picked off first base.

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