Disappointment: lost hopes of a Twins fan

By Mark Thomson

I’m an A’s fan first and foremost. However, like many of my fellow Macalester students, I’ve adopted the Twins. This was supposed to be the year. We re-signed Joe Mauer to a long-term deal. We opened Target Field. We had a payroll of over $100 million-absolutely unheard of in such a small market. We had our stud pitcher. We had a phenomenal bullpen, even without all-star closer Joe Nathan. Gardy was here as always.

Leading up to the ALDS, my Yankee fan friends (don’t judge me for keeping such company) constantly reminded me of last year’s New York first round sweep of the Twins. Of course, if you know me, I like my team’s chances against every team they play. I still hold my bold proclamation that the Raiders will win a Superbowl during my stay at Macalester. That being said, I really did like our chances against the Yankees.

Yankees pitching was vulnerable. CC Sabathia was going to be difficult, but we had Francisco Liriano. Andy Pettitte was coming off of injury and struggling as of late. And Phil Hughes, to use Bay Area vernacular, was hella overrated. Our bullpen was better, although Mariano Rivera still amazes me to this day. Offensively, the lineups were comparable. Plus, we had homefield advantage. Other than the fact that they were the hated Yankees, they were beatable. Or so I thought.

Game 1 rolls around and I’m excited. We jump off to a quick 3-0 lead and things are looking good. Liriano is dealing. We’ve already gotten to Sabathia. I’m confident that Liriano and our bullpen can hold it together. If we pull off Game 1, we’ve gotten the monkey off our back and destroyed the Yankees’ aura of invincibility.

Of course, they tee off of Liriano in the top of the sixth inning to take a 4-3 lead. But we battle back and score a run in the bottom of the inning despite leaving the bases loaded. I’m loving the Twins’ resiliency at this time. This year is different; I can feel it. Just as soon as I’m starting to regain my optimism, Jesse Crain, our best reliever down the stretch, gives up a two run home run to the horrendously overpaid mercenary Mark Teixeira. We drop Game 1, 6-4.

It’s all good though, I think to myself. Sabathia was their ace. Losing to him really wasn’t that big of a deal. We proved that he was beatable if we were going to face him again. I wasn’t too upset; we showed some spunk that previous Twins teams lacked. Plenty of teams come back from 1-0 series deficits.

Game 2: Pettitte against former Yankee Carl Pavano. This is a winnable matchup. Pavano’s been solid all year. We score one run in the bottom of the second. Things are going well. If we win this game, the series is 1-1 heading back to New York. We’re going to beat Hughes in Game 3, and even if we lose Game 4 we have Game 5 at Target Field. Accuse me of looking forward, sure, but it wasn’t that extreme of a mind-made scenario.

But once again, the Yankees battle back and take a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth. Pettitte is nasty. I’m starting to concede the series, and we’re halfway through Game 2. However, we battle back and tie it up 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth off of Orlando Hudson’s solo home run. Back at the top of the roller coaster, I’m liking where we’re at. But while the Twins were getting their jabs in, the Yankees were cocking back to deliver their knockout punch. We lose 5-2.

The series was over at this point, even if it wasn’t actually. I knew that we were defeated. The fact that Hughes pitched the game of his life and the Yankees rocked Brian Duensing to win 6-1 in Game 3 was merely a formality.

The Yankees have had our number the past two years, sweeping us convincingly in the postseason both times. I’ve found myself asking rhetorical questions the past week: What is it about them? Do we merely choke? Are the Yankees really that much better? Does Ron Gardenhire not prepare his players adequately? Do we just get lost in Derek Jeter’s eyes and fall for him like so many Hollywood starlets? I don’t have the answers at this point in time, but I do have an entire offseason to try to find them.