1991: The winning streak ends

Monday June 17, 1991
Memorial Stadium
Baltimore, MD

Orioles ‘ rally puts abrupt end to Twins’ streak – Baltimore gets three in ninth off Aguilera

Jeff Lenihan, Star Tribune 6/18/1991

The end of baseball’s longest winning streak in 14 years was inevitable. The Twins knew that. “It’s like dying,” Kirby Puckett said. “You know it’s gonna happen. The only questions are when and how.”

Yes, the Twins’ club-record winning streak, which climbed to 15 games and took them from sixth place to first, was going to end. But did it have to end like this? The Twins were wondering that on this hot, muggy evening, when their historic streak came crashing to a halt with a scintillating 6-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Yes, it had to end. But did it have to end with the Twins only one strike away from their 16th straight victory, with Rick Aguilera giving up a two-out, two-strike, two-run double to .247-hitting Randy Milligan one batter after the Twins intentionally put the go-ahead run on base?

Did it have to end with Aguilera, who had saves in nine straight appearances before Sunday, blowing his second save in two days by letting a hard-earned 5-3 lead slip away in the ninth? Did it have to end in a game in which the Twins pulled off yet another middle-innings comeback, scoring four unanswered runs to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead? The Twins wondered these things Monday night.

“I’d rather lose in a blowout,” outfielder Shane Mack. “This hurts. We were pretty down in here for a while. But we’ll be back.”

The Twins figure they will be back. Manager Tom Kelly did everything in his power to keep them from getting too high during the winning streak. Kelly had a postgame team meeting after the Twins’ first loss since May 31 and told his players they had a “wonderful run,” one they might never be so fortunate to experience again.

“I’m proud of this team,” Puckett said. “I’ve never been on a team that’s won 15 games in a row before. How can anybody hang their heads?”

Box

A few notes on the game and the streak:

-More about the streak itself here.

-The Twins went on to win their next four games and six of the next seven, making their total 21-2 over the first 23 days of June 1991.

-After the 21-2 run, the Twins dropped four straight, two to the Blue Jays (eventual AL East Champions) and two to the White Sox (runner up to the Twins in the West). In all they finished June 22-6 with 144 runs scored and 93 runs against.

-Steve Aschburner had this note in the Strib that same day:

It probably is too soon to start printing playoff tickets for October, based on a string of Twins victories in June. But consider this: Of the 23 teams in modern major league history that have won 15 or more consecutive games, 16 finished the season in first place.

Even more impressive, of the 11 American League clubs with such winning streaks, nine finished first. The other two finished second, and none won fewer than 90 games in its streak-sparked season.

He goes on about probability and sample size:

One way to put the Twins’ streak in perspective is to gauge the probability of an ordinary team winning 15 straight. If the Twins were simply a .500 ballclub – a realistic, even optimistic assumption in light of their 74-88 record in 1990 – they could be expected to win as many games as they lost. In other words, they would be like a common coin, with each victory represented by heads and each defeat by tails.

Well, in this streak, the Twins came up heads 15 straight times. Statistically, the odds of that happening are 1 in 32,768.

Obviously, 15 games is not a large enough sample to apply the law of averages so stringently. But some general conclusions probably can be drawn about the Twins: Either they are much more than a .500 team, their opponents have been far worse than average, or they have been astonishingly lucky. Then again, it could be all of the above.

-On a personal note, this game stands out as much as any in Twins history to me. I watched most of the streak, and was following every minute of the games once it passed 10 in a row. I can still remember Ted Robinson’s call of that final inning, one of the more disappointing innings of my young life.

-You can hear some of Robinson’s call of this game in the background of a scene in A Few Good Men.

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2 Responses to 1991: The winning streak ends

  1. Beau says:

    Ha ha, that scene in a A Few Good Men always bugged me, since the movie takes place the summer after this game was aired. Did Kaffee have a rare Twins/Orioles game on video cassette? I don’t think ESPN was airing classic games at this point.

    There’s also a classic Braves/Padres games in the movie he’s seen watching, and that game took place in 1990.

  2. Beau says:

    Oh, and case in point, what a moronic, moronic use of the intentional walk. This was dumber than walking Barry Bonds with the bases loaded and a two run lead.

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