Tuesday August 15, 1995
Seattle Mariners (51-50) @ Minnesota Twins (36-64)
1995 was not a good year for the Twins. Baseball had just returned from a work stoppage that resulted in a cancellation of the World Series, the first in 90+ years. Additionally, the last day before the strike started in 1994 was the last game Kent Hrbek ever played, and 1995 would turn out to be the last season for another great, Kirby Puckett.
The Twins didn’t seem too enthused about playing baseball again, and had rapidly fallen in the standings until they stood as the worst team in the league. Coming into the middle game of a series against Seattle, the Twins had but 35 wins – five fewer than the next-to-worst teams. The team had lost four of their last five games, and were facing a Seattle team that had recently put together six consecutive wins despite the loss of star Ken Griffey Jr., who was due to come off the disabled list any day.
Seattle Mariners Minnesota Twins 1. J Cora 2B 1. C Knoblauch 2B 2. K Griffey CF 2. R Becker CF 3. E Martinez DH 3. K Puckett RF 4. J Buhner RF 4. M Cordova LF 5. M Blowers 1B 5. D Masteller DH 6. D Strange 3B 6. S Leius 3B 7. W Newson LF 7. S Stahoviak 1B 8. D Wilson C 8. M Walbeck C 9. L Sojo SS 9. P Meares SS C Bosio P S Klingenbeck P
When Jay Buhner’s three-run home run capped off a four run sixth inning that gave Seattle a 5-2 lead, you could have excused Twins fans for thinking “here we go again”. Warren Newsom added a solo shot in the seventh off of Twins’ reliever Erik Schullstrom to give the visitors a four run lead.
The Twins went quietly in the seventh and the eighth. Though Jim Souhan mentioned that 12,595 were in attendance, it is likely that a good chunk of those fans had left before the ninth inning.
Souhan also noted this interesting exchange in the bottom of the ninth in the Star Tribune:
Mariners reliever Bill Risley had pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and took the mound for the ninth. When the name of lefthanded pinch hitter Chip Hale was announced, Mariners manager Lou Piniella rushed out, removed Risley and brought in Ayala.
Hale reached on an error, and Walbeck singled him to second, but two strikeouts by Ayala brought the Twins to their final out, still down by four. Chuck Knoblauch singled home Hale, and a Rick Becker single scored Walbeck, bringing Kirby Puckett to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Suddenly, the game was interesting.
“I had never gotten a hit before off Ayala,” Puckett said. “He throws a nasty forkball, and that’s all he was throwing me. I told myself that for once, I was going to make it be up [in the strike zone].”
With the count at 2-and-2, Ayala threw a forkball that didn’t fork. Puckett lined it into the stands, and the Twins celebrated as if Puckett had just hit another World Series game-winning homer.
“I think I’ve only hit two game-winning homers my entire career,” Puckett said. “The other was in the Series. I’ll take them anyway I can get them.”
Puckett’s home run gave Oscar Munoz his first major league win. He pitched two scoreless innings in the victory. Munoz went on to win one more game with the Twins later in the season, and finished with a career 2-1 record.
Stars of the Game
1. Kirby Puckett MIN 2-for-4, GW HR
2. Jay Buhner SEA 2-for-4, HR, 4 RBI
3. Chris Bosio SEA 7 IP 9 H 2 R
The Twins didn’t exactly catch fire after the emotional win, but they did finish the season with a 20-24 record following this game. Their 56-88 final record was still bad enough to tie them for the worst record in baseball. Seattle, on the other hand, went 28-16 down the stretch with the help of Griffey, who came off the DL for the third game in the Twins series, and won the AL West, moving on to win one of the most dramatic ALDS series in history against the New York Yankees.
Born August 15, 1958
Randy Johnson (not that Randy Johnson)
Johnson played one season with Minnesota, appearing mostly as a designated hitter in 1982. His best game as a Twins came on April 15, 1982 against the Oakland A’s. Johnson went 4-for-5 with a home run and 3 RBI in the Twins 11-5 victory over the A’s.