Game 150: Minnesota Twins (83-66) @ Oakland A’s (95-55)

March 17, 2008

Monday September 19, 1988

A paid total 42,186 Oakland A’s fans and a dejected Minnesota Twins’ dugout looked on as the A’s finished the inevitable. They had led the AL West most of the season and now, two weeks before the regular season ends, the A’s celebrated on the field in front of last year’s champions. Some samples from the local dailies:

The torch was passed from the Twins to the Oakland Athletics on a cool Monday night by the bay. More accurately, it was wrested away – yanked from the hands of a good team by a great team.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The Athletics have been preening atop the division in full view of the American League for 150 games. This team is loaded, at least for one season, playing at a dizzying 41 games above .500.

No question, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The standings have been right there in hard black and white each morning. Even as Twins fans, remembering the unlikely events of 1987, waited for some miraculous intervention that would turn it all right-side up, the Athletics were flexing those muscles one more time.

The Athletics beat the Twins 5-3 at Oakland Coliseum to clinch the American League West Division title. Fans at the Metrodome can stop leaning toward one another and asking “What’d Oakland do?” every five minutes. Oakland has done enough.

-Tom Powers, Pioneer Press

From the other side of the river:

Even when the clinching was close, the entire matter seemed moot, decided weeks ago and accepted by everyone in both clubhouses. That it happened on the road might have softened the blow for the Twins, but it still stung.

The Twins remembered the feel, the atmosphere of that champagne-soaked clubhouse in Texas 12 months ago and they knew that it all belonged to Oakland Monday night. The Athletics marched off with a 5-3 victory and carried the American League West title with them inside the Coliseum, which started shaking in batting practice.

That the A’s should clinch against the Twins seemed fitting. Oakland general manager Sandy Alderson set out nine months ago to deal the A’s into the playoffs after the Twins stole the division with 85 victories. It worked. All of it.

Unlike Twins manager Tom Kelly, who stayed behind and watched the Twins roll around the Arlington Stadium mound last September, A’s manager Tony La Russa followed the last player off the bench and joined the party in progress.

The Twins scored first, but Fred Toliver allowed five runs over the course of the first three innings and they never looked back. With his team behind 3-2, Dave Parker hit a two-run home run off of Toliver in the third inning. A Mike Gallego single later in the inning added an insurance run, and the A’s held on for the 5-3 win.

Dave Stewart was effective for the A’s, allowing only the three runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched. Dennis Eckersley faced six Twins and retired all of them to earn his 42nd save of the year.

The Twins were eliminated from the race despite the fact that they are three games ahead of their pace from a year ago.

Box

Player of the Game
Dave Parker

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              151   96   55    0  .636     -   741  582
Minnesota Twins                150   83   67    0  .553  12.5   701  624
Kansas City Royals             150   79   71    0  .527  16.5   658  597
California Angels              151   75   76    0  .497  21.0   679  702
Texas Rangers                  149   65   84    0  .436  30.0   593  689
Chicago White Sox              149   64   85    0  .430  31.0   589  720
Seattle Mariners               150   62   88    0  .413  33.5   609  691

Game 149: Chicago White Sox (62-85) @ Minnesota Twins (83-65)

March 16, 2008

Sunday September 18, 1988

The Twins will head to Oakland on Monday, but rather than proudly defending their AL West Division Title, they will more than likely be witness to the A’s celebration. An 8-5 Twins loss combined with an Oakland victory put the magic number for the A’s to clinch at 2. With a three game series between the Twins and A’s in Oakland, it would seem like a foregone conclusion that the race will officially come to a close sometime in the next three days.

“We were hoping the series would mean a little more,” Dan Gladden said. “But we aren’t eliminated yet. We can go into Oakland scrapping and clawing, making it tough for them.”

-quoted by Mike Augustin, Pioneer Press 9/19/1988

The Twins were prevented from sweeping the White Sox in large part by Dan Pasqua, who launched two home runs and knocked in four in the final game of the season series between the Twins and the Sox. The Twins had a 3-2 lead early, but that was erased by a five-run seventh inning that was capped off by Pasqua’s second homer, a three-run shot off of Keith Atherton.

Overall, the White Sox managed 16 hits against the weary Twins’ pitching staff.

The talk after the game, however, sounded almost like a political concession speech.

“The A’s have just had a marvelous year,” Al Newman said. “I’m sure they would consider it extra special to win the title in a game against us, and we’d like to prevent that. But the bottom line is they deserve to be congratulated.”

Box

Player of the Game
Dan Pasqua

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              150   95   55    0  .633     -   736  579
Minnesota Twins                149   83   66    0  .557  11.5   698  619
Kansas City Royals             149   79   70    0  .530  15.5   658  593
California Angels              150   75   75    0  .500  20.0   677  698
Texas Rangers                  148   65   83    0  .439  29.0   590  682
Chicago White Sox              148   63   85    0  .426  31.0   582  717
Seattle Mariners               149   61   88    0  .409  33.5   605  691

Game 148: Chicago White Sox (62-84) @ Minnesota Twins (82-65)

March 15, 2008

Saturday September 17, 1988

The Twins third straight victory took a bit of a back seat to some milestones that were accomplished. From Mark Vancil’s game story in the Star Tribune:

Allan Anderson showed again why he has been one of the best lefthanders in the American League since June 1; Jeff Reardon hit 40-40 before Oakland’s Jose Canseco, and Gary Gaetti provided a haunting vision of time lost.

Anderson improved to 14-9 and lowered the league’s third-best ERA to 2.62. Reardon became the first person to save 40 games in both leagues when he blew through the ninth on nine pitches. And Gaetti displayed the bat that sat on the shelf for 4 1/2 weeks.

The trio’s heroics helped move the Twins (83-65) 18 games over .500 for only the third time this season and momentarily held Oakland’s magic number at five. But even the A’s 3-2 victory over Kansas City, which got the number down to four, couldn’t taint a day controlled by Anderson, Reardon and Gaetti.

Gaetti’s contribution was a two-run home run off of Jerry Reuss in the bottom of the sixth inning. The home run broke the 1-1 tie, and represented the last of the scoring in the 3-1 Twins win.

Vancil also compared the Twins pair of left-handed starting pitchers in the same story:

Since June 1, Anderson is 10-3 with a 2.07 ERA. By comparison, Frank Viola, a lock for the American League Cy Young Award, has gone 10-4 with a 2.57 ERA in the same number of starts over the same 2 1/2-month period.

“I’ve seen him since ’82 and I saw what he’s capable of doing,” said Viola. “The thing is seeing him the last year put it together so quickly. I always knew he had big-league stuff. It was just a matter of getting it into his head.

“For the last couple of months he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League, if not all of baseball. But it has to be a year-to-year thing. Is this a fluke, or is this the real Allan Anderson? I believe it’s the real Allan Anderson. He’s a hard worker, pays attention, and he listens to people. He’s got all that going for him.”

Box

Player of the Game
Allan Anderson

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              149   94   55    0  .631     -   733  577
Minnesota Twins                148   83   65    0  .561  10.5   693  611
Kansas City Royals             148   79   69    0  .534  14.5   656  590
California Angels              149   74   75    0  .497  20.0   671  693
Texas Rangers                  147   65   82    0  .442  28.0   585  676
Chicago White Sox              147   62   85    0  .422  31.0   574  712
Seattle Mariners               148   61   87    0  .412  32.5   603  681

Game 147: Chicago White Sox (62-83) @ Minnesota Twins (81-65)

March 14, 2008

Friday September 16, 1988

The Twins insured that, for the second straight season, they would finish above .500 with their second consecutive win over the White Sox at the Metrodome. Their 82nd win came in game 147 this year, five games earlier than it came in the World Series year of 1987. Still, those Twins were 3.5 games up after game 147, this year’s club is 10.5 games back.

Early on, the Twins looked as though they might have to wait another day for win number 82. Bert Blyleven, who has struggled all season, allowed four runs on eight hits in the first two innings, but managed to straighten things out enough to keep the Twins in the game heading into the bottom of the sixth.

Down by a score of 4-3, Twins bats came alive with back-to-back home runs to lead off the inning, and take the lead for good. The first was off the bat of last night’s hero Jim Dwyer, the second from Gene Larkin.

Early in the game, Kirby Puckett struck his 1000th career hit, an RBI double off of Shawn Hillegas in the first inning. Puckett reached the milestone in less than five full major league seasons.

Box

Player of the Game
Jim Dwyer

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              148   93   55    0  .628     -   730  575
Minnesota Twins                147   82   65    0  .558  10.5   690  610
Kansas City Royals             147   79   68    0  .537  13.5   654  587
California Angels              148   74   74    0  .500  19.0   667  686
Texas Rangers                  146   64   82    0  .438  28.0   578  672
Chicago White Sox              146   62   84    0  .425  30.0   573  709
Seattle Mariners               147   60   87    0  .408  32.5   592  681

Game 146: Chicago White Sox (62-82) @ Minnesota Twins (80-65)

March 13, 2008

Thursday September 15, 1988

The headline on the Tom Powers game story in the Pioneer Press tells the story:

TWINS SWING LESS, SCORE 10 TO BACK VIOLA

The Twins have had trouble swinging the bats so, Thursday night, they unveiled a new strategy: They didn’t swing the bats. At least, they didn’t swing until it was absolutely necessary. It worked great.

Minnesota parlayed a bunch of walks and a grand slam by Jim Dwyer into a 10-3 victory over the White Sox at the Metrodome. Ten runs on eight hits – what a deal. But there were a lot of big non-swings in there.

“We started getting some walks. At least they were looking over the ball,” manager Tom Kelly said.

The benefactor of all the non-swinging – besides the announced crowd of 40,964 – was Frank Viola, who gave up two runs in seven innings of work to raise his record to 22-6. Viola became the majors’first 22-game winner and the third in Twins history. Jim Perry and Jim Kaat were the others.

“The only thing that I don’t like about it is that we’re 11 1/2 games behind Oakland,” Viola said. “We just have to realize that Oakland has had a tremendous year.”

The Twins actually trailed 2-1 heading into the bottom half of the sixth inning, but the team was determined not to repeat the nightmare of the previous series with Seattle. With Melido Perez on the mound, the Twins started the sixth with a pair of walks drawn by Herr and Moses and a single off the bat of Kirby Puckett to load the bases. Eric Bullock and Gene Larkin worked a pair of bases loaded walks, the latter off of reliever Steve Rosenberg, to give the Twins a 3-2 lead. After reliever Don Pall came on the strike out Gary Gaetti, the next batter was Jim Dwyer, and he put the game away with his decisive grand slam over the baggy in right field.

The Twins added a couple of more runs in the seventh and another in the eighth, and went on to win the game 10-3.

Box

Player of the Game
Kirby Puckett

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              147   93   54    0  .633     -   730  572
Minnesota Twins                146   81   65    0  .555  11.5   685  606
Kansas City Royals             146   78   68    0  .534  14.5   651  587
California Angels              147   73   74    0  .497  20.0   660  684
Texas Rangers                  145   64   81    0  .441  28.0   576  665
Chicago White Sox              145   62   83    0  .428  30.0   569  704
Seattle Mariners               146   60   86    0  .411  32.5   591  676

Game 145: Minnesota Twins (80-64) @ Seattle Mariners (59-86)

March 12, 2008

Wednesday September 14, 1988

The Twins ended their three game series against the Mariners in embarrassing fashion. Keeping with the theme of the week, “struggling offense,” the Twins were shut out by Mark Langston and Mike Schooler, and left Seattle having only scored three runs in three games.

The only bat that seemed to show up in the series finale was that of Gene Larkin, whose two singles combined with Tom Herr’s infield single represented the entirety of the team’s offensive output.

Tom Kelly was so desperate to score runs, he thought maybe changing his pitcher in the eighth inning would help.

“It was an offensive-type move, to be honest with you,” Kelly said of bringing in Berenguer. “Last night, we changed pitchers and scored two runs and won the game. Tonight, it didn’t matter.”

-quoted by Tom Powers, Pioneer Press 9/15/1988

The Twins head home now for a four game series against the White Sox, then end the season with 13 games against the Angels and the A’s.

Box

Player of the Game
Mark Langston

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              146   92   54    0  .630     -   724  570
Minnesota Twins                145   80   65    0  .552  11.5   675  603
Kansas City Royals             145   77   68    0  .531  14.5   649  586
California Angels              146   73   73    0  .500  19.0   659  682
Texas Rangers                  144   64   80    0  .444  27.0   574  659
Chicago White Sox              144   62   82    0  .431  29.0   566  694
Seattle Mariners               146   60   86    0  .411  32.0   591  676

Game 144: Minnesota Twins (79-64) @ Seattle Mariners (59-85)

March 11, 2008

Tuesday September 13, 1988

The Twins offense continued to sputter, but they found enough to pull out a late victory over the worst team in the AL West.

With a 1-0 lead thanks to an early run by the Mariners, the Seattle pitching staff looked as though it might be able to hold the slumping Twins down for a second straight night. Five Mariners’ pitchers combined to shut the Twins out for eight innings, and things were looking bad heading into the top of the ninth inning.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the first eight innings was the name of the pitcher who held the Twins down for the bulk of them. A rookie by the name of Terry Taylor started for the M’s. With three career major league starts, and just over 15 innings under his belt, Taylor brought a 6.89 ERA into the game. He left with 6 1/3 scoreless innings and a 4.91 career ERA.

To their credit, however, the Twins offense somehow found its way in the ninth. With Bill Swift on the mound, Randy Bush, Gary Gaetti, and Jim Dwyer hit consecutive singles to lead off the inning and tie the score at one. After a sacrifice bunt and intentional walk, Tom Herr’s slow ground out to second base scored pinch runner Al Newman from third, and the Twins had a 2-1 lead.

Jeff Reardon faced just three batters in the bottom of the ninth, and ended the game with a ground ball double play that helped him to his 38th save of the season.

Box

Player of the Game
Les Straker

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              145   92   53    0  .634     -   723  561
Minnesota Twins                144   80   64    0  .556  11.5   675  601
Kansas City Royals             144   76   68    0  .528  15.5   645  584
California Angels              145   73   72    0  .503  19.0   657  678
Texas Rangers                  143   63   80    0  .441  28.0   565  658
Chicago White Sox              143   62   81    0  .434  29.0   564  690
Seattle Mariners               145   59   86    0  .407  33.0   589  676

Game 143: Minnesota Twins (79-63) @ Seattle Mariners (58-85)

March 10, 2008

Monday September 12, 1988

For the second time in a week the Twins made Seattle pitcher Mike Moore look like a world beater.

Despite the fact that Allan Anderson had a decent outing, and that Juan Berenguer shut the Mariners down for three innings, all the Twins offense could muster was a single run against Moore in a 3-1 Twins’ loss.

  “We’re just not swinging the bat good right now,” said Kirby Puckett. “The whole team is struggling. We’re not scoring any runs for our pitchers. They’re doing a good job; we’re just not getting them any runs.”

-quoted by Mark Vancil, Star Tribune 9/13/1988

Seattle scored first when Henry Cotto led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run.  They put together two more runs in the bottom of the fifth, the same inning in which the Twins hit their first ball out of the infield in the top half.

The lone Twins’ run came in the top half of the sixth when Kirby Puckett doubled home Tom Herr.

The Twins have now lost five of their last eight games. Unfortunately, this is a stretch in the schedule in which the Twins are playing the worst teams in the division, and figured to gain some ground. Instead they find themselves 11.5 games behind Oakland.

Box

Player of the Game
Mike Moore

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              144   91   53    0  .632     -   721  560
Minnesota Twins                143   79   64    0  .552  11.5   673  600
Kansas City Royals             143   75   68    0  .524  15.5   641  581
California Angels              144   73   71    0  .507  18.0   654  674
Texas Rangers                  142   63   79    0  .444  27.0   564  656
Chicago White Sox              142   62   80    0  .437  28.0   564  686
Seattle Mariners               144   59   85    0  .410  32.0   588  674

Game 142: Minnesota Twins (79-62) @ Chicago White Sox (60-80)

March 9, 2008

Sunday September 11, 1988

Bert Blyleven pitched better than he had in almost a month, but it wasn’t good enough as the Twins fell 3-2 in the series finale in Chicago.

Tom Kelly was frustrated after the game.

“We didn’t do anything to help with the bats,” Kelly said. “When we were in a position to do something, we didn’t execute the basic fundamentals of the game. When you don’t execute the basic fundamentals of the game, you’re going to give up your chances and you are going to get beat.”

In the fifth, an inning that Kelly was really unhappy with, Hillegas walked Larkin and Bush to start things off. Gagne could not sacrifice them over, however, eventually striking out. Al Newman and Tom Nieto then made outs to end the inning.

Just the night before, Kelly had bemoaned the fact that the Twins weren’t getting the runners over in key situations.

“It’s been more than the last couple of days,” Kelly said Sunday. Asked what he could do about it, he replied, “Put somebody else in the game. Maybe that will wake some people up.”

-Tom Powers, Pioneer Press 9/12/1988

Despite the fact that Blyleven pitched eight innings and allowed three runs on just five hits, he was not immune from the criticism.

“He makes his own bad luck sometimes,” Kelly said. “He hits the first guy, then fails to cover first on a double-play ball. Basic fundamentals of the game.”

That was in the second inning, and immediately after the missed double play the Sox hit back-to-back doubles to take an early 2-0 lead.

“I’ve got nothing to say,” was the only comment from Blyleven (9-15)

The Twins didn’t score until the top of the eighth, and once again the returning Gary Gaetti got the big hit. With two on and two out, Gaetti lined a double down the left field line that scored two and tied the game.

Ozzie Guillen’s triple and Dave Gallagher’s double in the bottom of the inning put the White Sox back on top, this time for good, in a 3-2 victory.

Box

Player of the Game
Shawn Hillegas

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              144   91   53    0  .632     -   721  560
Minnesota Twins                142   79   63    0  .556  11.0   672  597
Kansas City Royals             143   75   68    0  .524  15.5   641  581
California Angels              144   73   71    0  .507  18.0   654  674
Texas Rangers                  142   63   79    0  .444  27.0   564  656
Chicago White Sox              141   61   80    0  .433  28.5   562  685
Seattle Mariners               143   58   85    0  .406  32.5   585  673

Game 141: Minnesota Twins (78-62) @ Chicago White Sox (60-79)

March 8, 2008

Saturday September 10, 1988

The curtain came down, but the show went on. And on. And on.

They used nine pitchers, made six errors, struck out 20 times and ruined at least three good endings in 12 innings of give and take.

But when it all came to a close Saturday night and the final opportunity slipped away, the Twins stumbled away with a 6-5 victory over Chicago before 21,119 at Comiskey Park.

“Weird,” said Gene Larkin, who delivered the game-winning hit in the 12th. “Just a weird game.”

“Did we win?,” said manager Tom Kelly in mock surprise. “That was a helluva game. Great entertainment for the dollar.”

-Mark Vancil, Star Tribune 9/11/1988

The Twins were two outs away from coming out on the losing end of the game in the ninth inning. That’s when Gary Gaetti stepped in to pinch hit with a man on.

In only his second appearance since returning from knee surgery, Gaetti launched a home run to left field off of Sox closer Bobby Thigpen.

“I really don’t know what to say,” said Gaetti, whose 27th homer was his first since Aug. 8. “I’ve been in that situation prior to now and didn’t get the job done. But that’s the beauty of baseball. There were a lot of mistakes, but a lot of determination by both teams.”

While Gaetti’s heroics gave the Twins a one run lead, Jeff Reardon gave it back in the bottom of the frame. Carlton Fisk led off the inning with a home run that tied the game and ultimately sent it into extra innings.

The blown save meant that Frank Viola got a no-decision for the game after pitching eight innings and allowing four runs on seven hits. Reardon gave up two more hits and an intentional walk in the ninth, but with the bases loaded retired both Dan Pasqua and Dave Gallagher without allowing a run.

The Twins looked as though they might score in the top of the tenth, and indeed they probably should have. Three straight singles to open the inning loaded the bases with nobody out. Sox pitcher Donnie Hill came back to strike out Doug Baker, and retired the side when Steve Lombardozzi hit a line drive to second that turned into an inning-ending double play.

It wasn’t until the 12th that the Twins finally broke through, but even then a base running mistake erased a run. Kirby Puckett tried to score from first base on Kent Hrbek’s double, ran through Rick Renick’s stop sign, and was gunned down. Fortunately for the Twins, Gene Larkin followed immediately with a double of his own to give the Twins a 6-5 lead.

German Gonzalez came in to earn the save in the bottom of the 12th, finally sealing the victory for the Twins after four hours plus of baseball and numerous mistakes by both teams.

“It was an all-around brutal game,” said Hrbek, who had four hits and raised his batting average to .315. “But when you win it’s a good game.”

Box

Player of the Game
Kent Hrbek

Team Name                        G    W    L    T   PCT    GB    RS   RA
Oakland Athletics              143   90   53    0  .629     -   713  553
Minnesota Twins                141   79   62    0  .560  10.0   670  594
Kansas City Royals             142   75   67    0  .528  14.5   634  573
California Angels              143   73   70    0  .510  17.0   651  666
Texas Rangers                  141   62   79    0  .440  27.0   556  653
Chicago White Sox              140   60   80    0  .429  28.5   559  683
Seattle Mariners               142   58   84    0  .408  31.5   582  668