2002: Twins clinch the AL Central

September 15, 2002

The Twins were hoping to do it on the field, but circumstances dictated they needed a win and some help to clinch the division on a Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.

In addition to defeating the team that had won six of the last seven Central Division titles, the Twins needed help from, of all teams, the New York Yankees, who were hosting the second place Chicago White Sox.

The Twins handled their end of things when Kyle Lohse, Johan Santana, and Eddie Guardado combined to shut out the Indians at Jacobs Field. Denny Hocking’s two-run single in the top of the seventh was the key play in a 5-0 Twins win. Hocking also handled the final out off the bat of Karim Garcia, a 4-3 putout.

Instead of celebrating on the field, the Twins filed into the visitor’s clubhouse to watch the rest of the Chicago-New York game.

“How else could this end?” Gardenhire asked. “We finally play a great ballgame and get a shutout, and then we have to wait on the Yankees.

“Isn’t that what everybody in baseball does – wait on the Yankees?”

The Twins didn’t have to wait long. The White Sox game, which was in a rain delay, ended prematurely (from LEN3’s game story):

Plastic dropcloths covered the floor and clubhouse stalls. Music was blaring, so no one noticed the Yankees game had ended until pitcher Johan Santana looked up saw the word “postgame” on the television.

“Que paso, man?” he yelled. “Que paso?”

Someone turned up the volume on the TV. Several players yelled, “That’s it!” Doug Mientkiewicz began to throw beer. The celebration was on.

The Twins were on their way to the post season for the first time since 1991.

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