1991 World Series Game 5: Minnesota Twins (2-2) @ Atlanta Braves (2-2)

Thursday October 24, 1991

If a fan was looking for a break from the drama of the 1991 World Series, he got it in Game 5. While each of the first four games were close, including the last two decided by the last at-bat, Game 5 was a blowout. Braves hitters got to Tapani early and kept the heat on against the Twins’ bullpen to close the Atlanta portion of the series with a 3-2 series lead. From Jeff Lenihan’s game story:

One of the most competitive World Series in history took an unexpected U-turn as the Braves pounded 17 hits – seven for extra bases – in eight innings, sending 50,878 of their most ardent tomahawk-choppers into a state of delirium and the Twins into a state of shock. The 14 runs were the most scored in a Series game in 31 years and the most ever scored by an NL team. Neither the Twins nor the Braves had scored more than five runs in the first four games.

The Braves swept the three games at Fulton County Stadium, which explains why some of their faithful turned in their tomahawks for brooms. The Twins are 0-9 in World Series games on the road.

The Braves hammered Tapani (1-1) for four runs in the fourth inning. After the deficit grew to 5-0, the Twins took advantage of some uncharacteristic wildness from Braves starter Tom Glavine (1-1) to chop away at the Atlanta lead in the sixth, pulling within 5-3 and twice sending the go-ahead run to the plate. But the Twins’ overworked bullpen gave up 10 earned runs in four innings, with David West (four batters faced, four runs allowed) setting the less-than-melodic tone.

Heroes for the Braves were plentiful. David Justice hit a two-run homer to start the scoring in the fourth and finished with five RBI. Mark Lemke, who drove in the winning run in Game 3 and scored the winning run in Game 4, tied a World Series record with two triples, giving him three in a span of four at-bats. And Lonnie Smith, trying to win a World Series with a fourth different team, hit another homer. He became the first player to homer in three consecutive World Series games since Reggie Jackson did so for the Yankees in Games 4, 5 and 6 of the 1977 Series.

What kind of a night was it for the Twins? Manager Tom Kelly, who resorted to starting Chili Davis in right field, pinch hit Jarvis Brown for Kirby Puckett in the eighth. And Al Newman, who had not hit a triple since 1989, hit one in the eighth. It scored a run that made the score 11-4, but Carl Willis gave three runs back in the bottom of the inning.

“We just flat out got our butts kicked,” Newman said. “But in a sense that’s not so bad. I’d prefer that to having to walk off the field when they score the final run, when you’re just inches away from victory.”

Said Chuck Knoblauch, the Twins’ best player in the series with a .523 on-base percentage: “After all those games, someone was going to break loose sooner or later with a lot of runs. It’s just one of those things. But it’s a lot easier to digest than those 3-2 or 2-1 games when you have the umpires involved and everything. These things happened to us in the regular season and there was always a feeling of `Whew,’ a sense of relief. I don’t know if it takes the pressure off or not, but we’ve come back from these games and played well. And there’s guys in this clubhouse that have come back from a deficit just like this in the World Series.”

That, of course, was in ’87, and several Twins said that experience should prove beneficial. So will the day off. “We need a day off,” Kelly said. “Especially pitching-wise.”

Noel Holston described how the CBS crew worked the first blowout of the series:

How big a yawner did Game 5 of the World Series eventually become?

This big: While the Twins batted in the eighth, CBS play-by-play man Jack Buck, analyst Tim McCarver and guest commentator Tommy Lasorda got into an intense discussion of the merits of the designated hitter – and the CBS camera was focused on them. And who could really blame them for losing interest? Tom Kelly had already taken Kirby Puckett out. He might as well have raised a white Homer Hanky on a stick.

For Twins fans, there was not much to smile about in the telecast.

For many Twins fans, panic began to set in. From Howard Sinker’s article in the Star Tribune:

You lost big. So big that your manager cleared the bench near the end, sending Jarvis Brown to bat for Kirby Puckett and Paul Sorrento for Kent Hrbek. By then, you were down by eight, and it was clear to all that you were done for the night.

You had this World Series under control once. That was a few days ago, after winning two games at the Metrodome. Forgive your fans if last weekend feels like it happened last year.

Your fans are wondering, Atlanta’s are celebrating. Up three games to two, they have that right.

In the eighth inning, when Mark Lemke came to bat, a chant carried into the mild, moonlit night: “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” Lemke hit two more triples last night, raising his World Series average to .438, after a regular season of hitting only .234. In his four games against Minnesota – he stayed on the bench for the opener – Lemke has four extra-base hits. In 136 games against the National League teams this season, he had only 15.

“M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” When the Twins were sort of close, at 5-3 in the seventh, Lonnie Smith led off with a home run for the Braves that started a surge of nine runs in their final two at-bats.

Smith homered in three straight games. The last guy to do that during a World Series was Reggie Jackson in 1977. Remember, Smith hit only seven homers all season.

Yo, Domeboys! You turned Lonnie Smith into Reggie Jackson; Mark Lemke into Kirby Puckett.

…and Sinker took some historical perspective:

One more set of numbers, anyone? Minnesota’s World Series road report has been stunning – nine games, nine losses. Stunning like a fastball in the ribs. Go back into franchise history, when the Twins were the Washington Senators, and the franchise road loss streak is 14.

The Senators won at Pittsburgh in Game 1 in 1925. Walter Johnson was the winning pitcher. You beginners, go look up Johnson in a baseball encyclopedia.

It would be nice for the Twins if he could pitch Game 6 in 1991.

Patrick Reusse was even more pessimistic:

Four years ago, when the Twins returned home after losing three in a row in St. Louis, there were excellent reasons to be confident. It was written that way: The fans should not be depressed – that the Twins had done everything that season by crushing the opposition at the Metrodome and that they would do it again.

The Twins scored 11 runs against the hopeless John Tudor and his relievers in Game 6. Then they cruised behind a marvelous Frank Viola in Game 7. A little, two-game Dome winning streak and Minnesota had a World Series champion for the first time.

It is difficult to express the same level of confidence in this group of Twins after they staggered home from Atlanta early this morning – nudged in Games 3 and 4, crushed in Game 5.

The feeble Tudor and a novice named Joe Magrane were coming to town to face the Twins four years ago. Steve Avery and John Smoltz – the guys who gave Atlanta back-to-back shutouts in Pittsburgh last week – will be coming to town to face these Twins.

Four years ago, Metrodome magic was more than a cliche. When an opposing pitcher took the mound in there, his earned-run average and his life-insurance rates would soar.

The Twins had more than Viola and powerful hitting going for them. It was the first time around for most of their fans, and the Twins were feeding off the frenzy of an emotional bandwagon that carried the entire state.

This time, the Braves are the long shots, the first-timers, the team feasting on a city’s frenzy. The citizens have worked the Cherokees of North Carolina to a frazzle, producing foam-rubber tomahawks to be waved in the stadium, in bars and in TV dens.

Game 6 will feature Scott Erickson and Steve Avery as the starting pitchers.

Box

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