On Tuesday afternoon, when 27-year-old right-hander Pablo López delivered his first pitch for the Minnesota Twins against the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 1 of the 2023 AL wild-card series, he was going up against nearly 20 years of hardship in Minnesota Twins’ history.
Oct. 5, 2004, to be precise, a day forever cemented in the “Twin Cities” as it was the last time the Twins won a playoff game. Coming into Tuesday, the team’s 18 straight postseason losses marked the longest postseason losing streak in America’s “Big Four” sports.
On that date, George W. Bush was still in his first term as president. In professional sports, Rafael Nadal hadn’t even won his first French Open, while Novak Djokovic’s career was just getting started. Elsewhere guys named LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony just finished their rookie years. Someone named Aaron Rodgers was a junior at California, while Patrick Mahomes was just nine years old. Then, for those social media fans, Instagram, X, the platform previously referred to as Twitter, and the iPhone had not yet been created, while Facebook was in its first year ever. How’s that for some history?
Unlike their previous 18 tries, the 19th proved to be the charm and that team that had been struggling to get over the hump for nearly two decades was victorious once again on its home soil.
In front of an exhilarating crowd, Minnesota came out guns blazing in the first inning with a two-run home run off the bat of rookie third basemen, Royce Lewis. Lewis would again hit a long ball in the third inning, becoming just the second Twin ever to have a multi-home run playoff game.
Strong plate discipline and lengthy at-bats ensued and limited Blue Jays ace and AL Cy Young candidate Kevin Gausman to four innings.
López surrendered one run through 5 2/3 innings and when the bullpen nearly blew a 3-1 lead, defensive superstar and center fielder Michael A. Taylor made a game-changing catch, robbing the Blue Jays of their chance.
The bullpen continued to set the tone as the Twins won, 3-1, their first playoff win since 2004.
On Wednesday, with veteran pitcher Sonny Gray on the mound, the Twins will attempt to break another dry spell — winning a playoff series for the first time since 2001.
The first pitch is set for Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. from Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn., in what’s sure to be another must-watch game.