By In Baseball

The Yankees-Twins Follies

When I was a kid in Cleveland, I thought of the New York Yankees in mythological terms. I mean that literally. I imagined the Yankees as being on Mount Olympus, doing whatever it is that Greek gods do – sitting on thrones, seducing women by taking the shape of sheep, hatching petty revenge plots, sending monsters and natural disasters upon their enemies. Those were the Yankees of Reggie and Billy and King George and Goose, they were angry and flaky and proud and too damned good for my team to beat.

In those days, I didn’t despise the Yankees as much as I feared them.

I wonder, if that’s how young Twins fans feel now. The Yankees are certainly not a dominant team now like they were then; they have not been all that good for a while. Oh, don’t get me wrong, most fans would walk on hot coals to have the Yankees history over the last decade, but by Yankees standards it’s not that great. They have won one World Series victory since 2002, they have one pennant in the last decade, they have even missed the playoffs three times in the last seven years.

But I suspect a young Twins fan would have no faith in any of these moderate signs of Yankee decline. Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, the Twins took a three-run lead in the seventh inning. Every breathing Twins fan anticipated what was about to happen. The Yankees loaded the bases. Alex Rodriguez hit the 25th grand slam of his outsized career. The Yankees ran away to victory. The only surprise was that it was only ARod’s second slam against the Twins. I would have guessed it was his 23rd.

How bad has it been for the Twins against the Yankees in recent years?

This bad: Since 2002, the Yankees are 80-29 against the Twins. I’ll repeat that in capital letters in case you missed it: They are EIGHTY and TWENTY NINE.

This is simply not a realistic record: 80-29. It’s the sort of record you will see for some ultra-successful 1A  high school football coach in Georgia. It’s the sort of vote total you see for a bill that will designate some day in the near future as “Chocolate Cake Day.” It does not seem possible that one Major League team would beat another Major League team 80 out of 109 times.

And it’s not like we’re talking about a doormat Major League team either. Yes, these have been rough times for the Twins lately, but they have won six division titles since 2002. The Twins have lost 92 or more games each of the last four seasons, and they STILL have a winning record since 2002. This has been a good, sometimes excellent, baseball team. And they’ve also been the New York Yankees’ plaything for 13 years.

Lets go over a few of the lowlights, shall we?

May 17, 2002: The Twins were beginning what would turn out to be their first postseason appearance in more than a decade. They were playing well, beginning to believe, and they went into Yankee Stadium and took a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth. Their closer then was Everyday Eddie Guardado, a fine pitcher who would lead the league in saves that season. He gave up a homer to Bernie Williams to tie the game.

It went all the way to the 14th when the Twins scored three runs to seemingly put the game out of reach. But there is no out of reach when it comes to the Yankees and the Twins. Mike Trombley came in to pitch. He gave up a single to Shane Spencer. He gave up a single to Derek Jeter. He gave up a single to Bernie Williams. And then Jason Giambi, who had just signed with the Yankees for 77 kajillion shmillion dollars, hit the walkoff grand slam.

April 2003: The Twins began the year feeling pretty good about themselves. They had made the playoffs, they were young and exciting, and the Yankees came to town. And the Yankees kicked the Guardado out of them in a four-game set. The Yankees hit 12 home runs and outscored the Twins 38-9. For the season, the Yankees won all seven games the two teams played. Then game the postseason.

Postseason 2003: The Twins won Game 1 against the Yankees in the division series behind their newfound ace Johan Santana. They managed just one run in each of the three losses that quickly followed.

September 30, 2004: The Twins had already clinched their third straight division title when they went to Yankee Stadium to play a three-game series for pride. It was a chance to show that they would not longer be subservient to the Yankees. Yeah. The Twins were swept. In the third game, the Twins led by a run going into the ninth inning. Bernie Williams hit a two-run walkoff homer off Juan Rincon. This couldn’t have put the Twins in the best spiritual place when it came time to face the Yankees again in the postseason.

Postseason 2004: For the second straight year, the Twins beat the Yankees in Game 1 behind the sterling pitching of Johan Santana. Then the nightmares began to howl. In Game 2, the Twins were the comeback team, forcing extra innings with an eighth inning rally. The game went into the 12th, and the Twins took a one run lead on a Torii Hunter homer.

In came the invincible Joe Nathan, one of the best regular season closers in baseball history.  He opened the inning with a strikeout. The Twins were two outs away from a 2-0 lead in a best of five series. Then … yeah, Nathan walked Miguel Cairo, he walked Derek Jeter, gave up a game-tying double to Alex Rodriguez, intentionally walked Gary Sheffield and allowed the game-winning sacrifice fly to Hideki Matsui.

The Twins briefly led Game 3, and they held a 5-1 lead in Game 4 with Johan Santana pitching. They lost both games. The series decisive run was scored on a Kyle Lohse wild pitch. These, not Tinker to Evers to Chance, are the saddest of all possible words. 2005

July 23, 2008: The Twins came into Yankee Stadium in first place, and they got swept and outscored 25-7. The most telling moment, I think, came in the third game with the Yankees leading 5-0 going into the ninth inning. The Twins stirred a bit, they scored a run, they put two runners on, and they sent Jason Kubel up to pinch hit. Kubel was not the tying run but manager Joe Girardi, apparently sick of seeing the Twins getting frisky, sent Mariano Rivera into the game. Kubel was quickly fanned and the insurrection was put down before it got started.

May 15-17, 2009: The Yankees beat the Twins all 10 times they played in 2009. So the whole year was a lowlight. But words can barely describe the horrors of those three games at Yankee Stadium:

Game 1: The Twins led 4-2 going into the ninth inning. Again, they had the invincible Joe Nathan on the mound. He gave up a triple to Brent Gardner, a single to Mark Teixera, a walk to A-Rod and an intentional walk to Robinson Cano. Melky Cabrera hit the walkoff single. That’s walkoff number one.

Game 2: The Twins led by a run going into the bottom of the eighth, blew the lead and the game went into extra innings. A-Rod homered off Craig Breslow in the 11th. That’s walkoff number two.

Game 3: The Twins blew a two-run lead in the seventh, again pushing the game into extra innings. Johnny Damon hit the walkoff homer off Jesse Crain. And yes, that’s three straight walkoff victories for the Yankees.

Postseason 2009: The Twins led all three games. The Twins lost all three games. In Game 2, Joe Nathan blew a two-run lead in the ninth by (what else?) giving up a homer to A-Rod. Mark Teixeira hit the walkoff homer in the 11th inning.

Postseason 2010: Twins take a 3-0 lead in Game 1 and blow it, losing on a Mark Teixeira homer. They more or less get outclassed from there.

April 19, 2012: The Twins are now terrible, so these games don’t mean very much. Still, the Twins do take a 4-0 lead at Yankee Stadium. They lose it thanks to Curtis Granderson, who hits three home runs.

July 1-4, 2013: This was the Robinson Cano series. The Twins lost the first game of the series after leading because Cano hit two homers. The led the second game and lost after Cano homered. They led the third game 2-0 – Cano hit a two-run double to tie it then scored the winning run. They lost the fourth game without ever leading – Cano hit a sacrifice fly in the first to give the Yankees the lead they never relinquished.

July 3, 2014: The Twins take a 2-0 lead, which they lose on a Carlos Beltran home run. And then someone named Zelous Wheeler, a 27-year-old rookie playing in his first big league game, homered to seal victory. Zelous Wheeler is now in Japan.

Impressive, no? Then this week they had the A-Rod slam — incidentally, someone named Nick Rumbelow officially “won” that game for the Yankees. I would like to make it clear: There is nobody named Nick Rumbelow. As Nick Hurwitz tweeted, he’s obviously an escaped P.G. Wodehouse character. But that is the Yankees’ story these days. Lookit: Chasen Shreve? Nathan Eovaldi? Gregory Bird? John Ryan Murphy? Come on, those aren’t Major  League baseball players. They are the guys from “The Sandlot.”

The day before the A-Rod slam, the Twins lost a game on a walkoff ground ball by Chase Headley. There was something symbolic about that. Headley hit a slow roller with a man on third and Eduardo Nunez fielded it but didn’t have time to go to the plate. Nunez didn’t even bother throwing it home. Bad luck.

But my favorite part of the play though is that Nunez didn’t just eat the ball and walk off. No, he threw it to first to record the out. I don’t think you can find a better way symbolize this insane Yankees-Twins thing. It was almost like Nunez was saying, “Well, hey, maybe we lost the game. But, you know, at least we got the out.”

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51 Responses to The Yankees-Twins Follies

  1. The Yankees’ dominance over the Twins made this moment all the more improbable: Jason Kubel’s 8th inning grand slam off Mariano Rivera (and yes the Twins held onto win)

  2. I grew up in Topeka, Ks as a big KC Royals fan in the 70s, and always hated the Yankees because we couldn’t seem to beat them in the playoffs. But it was nothing like this bad. I don’t know why the Twins even show up to play the Yankees.

    • Brent says:

      Actually, with regard to overall record, the Royals are pretty similar to this. Starting in 1996, the Royals were 29 and 82 against the Yankees through 2008. Since then we are better (19-28. still not great and I certainly didn’t enjoy the 23-4 beat down the Yankees gave us in the 3 game sweep at Yankee Stadium this year). And yes, we have no postseason angst recently against the Yankees, though 1976-78 was pretty bad.

  3. Travis says:

    As a 30 year old Twins fan, just re-reading some of these descriptions made my heart sink. I spent the better part of my formative years watching the Twins lose to the Yankees in the playoffs.

    I don’t think I despise any team more than the Yankees. Most people hate the Yankees because they’re the Yankees. I hate the Yankees because my Twins turn into the Washington Generals when they play them.

    • Exactly. I don’t think I could ever hate a team as much as I hate the Yankees, spending my high school/college/early adult years going through this.

      I remember being at a few games in the late 90s/early 2000s and sitting in the Dome surrounded by Yankee fans when they came to town. They beat us, of course, and that started the long winter. I hated that fans of the opposing fans were as loud as my team (because there were probably 8,000 Yanks fans to match the 8,000 Twins fans in attendance).

      I think all of my frustration and sadness of being a Twins fan came to a head as pure, white-hot anger on the Joe Mauer double that wasn’t against the Yankees in the postseason. Even when they did something good, a missed call went against them to ruin it anyway. Not even luck and/or poor eyesight was on our side. Anger quickly turned to self-pity and sadness.

      My anger/hatred is slowly turning to begging for mercy. Twins fans are the peasants pleading with the royal family to throw a crumb of bread our way. Please sir!

      I can’t wait for the day when Sano walks off against the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS to finally banish the curse. Maybe just once…please?

  4. Bryz says:

    You didn’t even mention Phil Cuzzi blowing the call on what should have been a double for Joe Mauer down the left field line.

  5. And today the Twins blew a 3-2 lead in the 6th. Currently 4-3 Yanks in 9th.

  6. mncharm says:

    Minor correction with respect to game 2 of the 2004 series. I remember it like it was yesterday; I was in a car and nearly drove off the road and ended all the misery right then.

    It wasn’t that Joe Nathan was called in for the 12th and blew it. That was his THIRD inning of relief. Ron Gardenhire, who rarely, if ever, called on Nathan for a four out save, sent him out there for a THIRD INNING. (I was screaming at the radio; both JC Romero and a fire-breathing Jesse Crain were sitting in the bullpen — if memory serves, Gardy said he couldn’t put Crain, a rookie at the time, into that situation). Nathan ended up throwing 53 pitches. What a shock that he walked Cairo…and Gardy kept himself planted on the bench (I’m screaming in my car)…then he walked Jeter (I’m wondering if the pain will end if I drive into a bridge abutment at 65)…oh god, it’s all so painful.

    • KHAZAD says:

      That was an Epic remembrance!

    • Zach says:

      Truly, I feel your pain. I also remember that like it was yesterday. Sitting around with friends, and if memory serves, throwing beer cans at the TV while this took place. Loved those Twins teams, minus the ownership via the Yanks.

  7. mncharm says:

    And that one wasn’t close…it was fair by at least three feet, and Cuzzi was right there!

  8. Jwff says:

    Being a Twinkle fan isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

  9. Bob Lundegaard says:

    I was hoping the Twins would have led today’s game going into the 9th. Then we could have blamed the inevitable loss on not having our ace closer Glen Perkins available. He returned to Minneapolis today for treatment on his neck, probably the result of turning too quickly to watch his recent pitches leave the park.

  10. Eric says:

    Life long Twins fan, the most frustrating thing, we seem to be able to “win” the first 6 innings or so of most games, almost like the Yankee’s are toying with us, the last three innings they launch homer after homer until the game is out of hand. I don’t even watch the Yankee series’ anymore. It’s the worst kind of torture.

  11. invitro says:

    The Twins had two of the luckiest World Series titles in history in 1987 and 1991. 1991 was 24 years ago, but I don’t think it’s yet reasonable for their fans to start complaining about misfortunes.

    • dose17 says:

      I wasn’t alive for either of those titles 🙁

    • Ian says:

      Not sure they were lucky in 87 or 91. They were the better team.

      • invitro says:

        Ok, forget 1991, I was overemphasizing the Braves’ miscues.

        But by what metric could you conclude the Twins were the best team in 1987? Better than Detroit, St. Louis, Toronto, the Mets, the Yankees, Montreal, San Francisco, and Milwaukee, all of which had better records than the Twins, and all of which had Pyth records at least 4 games better?

        • Lucky? Well, in an 8 team playoff format, any one of the 8 can get hot and win…. and that’s usually what happens. The Playoffs are a total crapshoot. The best team over the regular season is usually irrelevant. Ask Bobby Cox about that.

          • ck101 says:

            We can stipulate that every team that ever wins a postseason series enjoys some amount of “luck”, however you want to define it. But the 1987 Twins, who won only 85 games and went 29-52 on the road in the regular season, were luckier than most; they had home field in the ALCS and World Series due to the rotating schedule then in effect, and enjoyed a football-style home field advantage due to the Metrodome’s oddities and decibel level. And they faced a Cardinals team that, because of injuries to Jack Clark and Terry Pendleton, used Dan Driessen and Jim Lindeman as cleanup hitters in games six and seven. That’s a bit more luck than most championship teams get. The ’91 Twins were a legitimately good team; the only obvious luck is that, again, they had the home field advantage in both series.

          • Only 4 teams made the playoffs in 1987.

      • Brent says:

        Oh no Ian, the Cardinals fans are going to come out of the woodworks now. There are two things you don’t say around Cardinals’ fans, Don Denkinger and Metrodome. Don’t you know the Cardinals were ripped off twice in the 80s from their just deserts of WS Championships.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        They were not the better team; they had that ridiculous home field advantage from that joke of a stadium called the Metrodome. Without that, they lose both series.

  12. Ian says:

    As a Twins fan, the worst part is how many of these stupid losses are close or bullpen losses. Since 2002, counting the postseason, the Yankees are 36-8 in games decided by 2 runs or less.

  13. Jon Kopplin says:

    Thanks Joe for that turn down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I just remember the blown Cuzzi call in 2009 in game 2 with incredible fury. It is as if the baseball gods were gleefully kicking the Twins and their fans in the crotch.

  14. Jaremy says:

    This followed by a 2-homer game by Greg Bird to put the Yankees in front, twice. Those poor Twins…

  15. Dan W. says:

    Two memorable 1985 games from my youth. In the first Mattingly hits a 3-run walk off homerun. The next night the Yankees score 6 runs in the 7th inning and go on to beat the Twins 10-7. For the 1985 season, the Yankees beat the Twins 9 out of 12 times.

  16. The Yankees have always been a nemesis of the Dodgers as well. When I was a kid and a huge Dodger fan, I was vaguely aware that the Dodgers, though regularly taking beatings from the Yankees in the World Series, had beaten them in the 1955 World Series ….. several years before I was born. So, I have to say the 1981 World Series was really incredible. The Dodgers started a familiar pattern by losing the first two games at Yankee Stadium. Everyone thought it was over.

    Then, the Dodgers won three straight one-run games at home, somehow coming up with the big hit or the big pitching performance every time. Then blew out the Yankees in Yankee Stadium in Game 6. So, Dodger fans always have 1981. Heck, that was only 34 years ago.

    • Brent says:

      Bellweather, well they did sweep the Yankees in 1963, only they and the Reds can ever say they did that to the Yankees in the WS.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Also 1963, although, obviously that’s not in the memory of most fans. 1963 really started the decline of the original Yankee dynasty with Koufax dominating. In fact, starting in 1955, the Dodgers and Yankees are 3-3.

  17. Kuz says:

    I remember that first series in 2009 vividly. We were on our first and only trip to Europe. We were in Norway and/or Sweden. The six hour time difference, watching on my laptop (probably Gameday) made the three consecutive walk-offs more surreal. On to the World Series and a championship.

  18. Karyn says:

    I miss bat-girl and her Lego reenactments.

  19. MN Guy says:

    This is a disgrace and an embarrassment to the Twins organization. Note that it all started in 2002–with the beginning of the Ron Gardenhire era. I like Gardy, he’s a good man, but his teams were mentally weak and folded like a cheap suit in the face of any kind of adversity. Joe Mauer is the poster boy of this era as well–he’s been around since 2004 btw–$23M a year, but no fire, no leadership and no responsibility taken for the failures against the Yankees and one playoff series sweep after the next. Mauer himself has an abysmal record against the Yankees, but he clearly doesn’t care, just like he doesn’t care that he’s now the most overvalued player in MLB history, batting .265 with single digit HRs while playing 1st base with a mediocre glove–just clocks in his hours each day and goes home, win or lose.

    This season is just carryover from the past 13 seasons, and now that the Twins bullpen truly does stink this year, it further plays into the recurring theme of late inning meltdowns. Maybe Molitor and company can give this team some toughness, but it’s now such a psychological trend for both teams, it may take several more seasons before it changes.

    • invitro says:

      I agree. It’s beyond ludicrous for a $23M player to actually GO HOME after a game, win or lose. Molitor NEVER went home after a game.

    • ck101 says:

      Just a bit curious – what, exactly, is your concrete proof that Mauer doesn’t care? If he starts smashing bats and helmets is that somehow going to make the pitching staff better? Is he not supposed to go home after games they lose, but instead put on a hairshirt and sit in the locker room to suffer until he gets his mind right? And was his hitting 5-for-12 with two walks in the three games against New York in 2009 somehow the main reason they lost the series, rather than the bullpen failures?

      Any rational observer admits that Mauer’s performance the last few years has been remarkably disappointing; it looks increasingly like what we’ve seen the last season and a half might be all he has left. And if so it’s a shame to see such a promising career fizzle out like this. But the abuse and calumny he takes, for no reasons I can see other than resentment over the size of his contract and his lack of Nick Punto-style grit and false hustle, is absolutely astounding. Until I see or hear some actual evidence that he’s not approaching things as a professional, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

  20. hewetson says:

    Feel sad, even guilty, hearing the other side of what it’s like to lose to the Yankees. More so when it happens to the fine upstanding people of our Midwest. Wearing my NY Yankee hat in St Paul is not the life threatening experience it would be in much of New England.
    Us Yankee fans have had some heartache too. Mazeroski 1960 WS, Bench 1976 WS, 911 2001 WS, 2004 Red Sox Nation comeback and WS. Still, we have had it better than most in baseball. I’m also a Jets, Rangers, and Knicks fan so I know from losing.

    • Brent says:

      Sorry, but Yankees’ fans obviously don’t understand “heartache” like the rest of us. In 1976, there was no heartache. The Yankees were beat by the better team, a team that was historically great, so they shouldn’t have thought they were going to win anyway. They were swept, so it wasn’t like they got tantalizingly close to victory and then lost out. And in retrospect, they won the WS the next two years, so basically they didn’t even have much time to bemoan the loss all that much. Frankly, if I were rank WS losers from top to bottom as the most heartbreaking to the least, I would guess that the 1976 Yankees would rank in the bottom 10 and probably very close to least.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I don’t think too many people are going to sympathize with Yankee fans’ “heartbreak.” 🙂 As for 1976, I don’t see the heartbreak; the Reds were simply much better and crushed the Yankees. The others I understand, but Braves fans will always hate the name Leyritz.

  21. NevadaMark says:

    I could never understand why fans get so upset about player salaries. It’s not like it’s your money. The player is not the one signing his checks. In Mauer’s case, EVERY fan in Minnesota was on board with that contract at the time. The Twins suck now because management hasn’t found the right players. When they do, all will be forgiven.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I agree but I think the assumption is that there is direct correlation between player salaries and ticket prices, which I think is economically not valid. (Teams can-and do-charge much more than their costs.) The other issue, I guess, is that fans think that bad contracts will hamstring their team in the future. But people were complaining about players’ salaries even when they weren’t making that much; people criticized guys who held out even though they were making a pittance of what they should have. A lot of it is simple jealousy for getting so much money for playing ball.

  22. longdistancetwins says:

    Look, it goes back further than this: As a Twins fan in the New York area, I’ve been watching disasters since the early 1970s. I’ve been at the Stadium to see us lose both ends of doubleheaders (back in the days of doubleheaders) when both teams were pretty evenly matched (as in, mediocre). A “favorite” of mine is when we blew a 9-1 lead to lose 11-9 back in the Bill Rigney era. And, yes, I was at yesterday’s game, but it was the least painful of the three.

  23. David E. says:

    You didn’t even mention the best part of the 2009 ALDS! I don’t remember which Yankee Stadium game this happened in, but someone on the Yankees got a hit that, as multiple replays showed, was clearly foul. But in those days, the only time they went to instant replay was to look over a disputed home run, so there was nothing the Twins could do. I seem to remember it was a ground-rule double, and there was one that game hit by Jeter in the bottom of the 6th, when they were trailed 1-0. Take a guess who drove him in.

  24. George Rownd says:

    1. I am a lifelong Twins fan
    2. I am recovering in the Mayo Clinic after back surgery
    3. I hurts like ‘the dickens’
    4. I just read this article
    5. It hurts much more…

  25. Joe says:

    My parents died in a car accident when I was 11. Do you want to talk about that too?

  26. DjCSr77 says:

    Someone I saw on FaceBook said just the opposite of this:
    “Did you know: Yankees have Twins’ number
    New York has gone 81-29 in regular season and playoffs vs. Minnesota since 2002”

    It is the Yankees that has the 81 wins not the Twins !!!

    BTW.. The New York Yankees are the BEST FRANCHISE IN ALL OF SPORTS PERIOD !!

  27. […] as I wrote a couple of years ago, many of those Twins losses have been particularly […]

  28. […] as I wrote a couple of years ago, many of those Twins losses have been particularly […]

  29. […] as I wrote a couple of years ago, many of those Twins losses have been particularly […]

  30. Zulman says:

    I was curious to see if anyone else returned to this story after the Twins just lost to the Yankees in the wildcard game at Yankee stadium. The Twins jumped out to an early 3-run lead, then the inevitable happened, and order was restored to the universe. After losing 103 games last year, the 2017 Twins surprised everyone by returning to their role of losing to the Yankees in the playoffs. And it looks like the Twins have the talent to continue losing to the Yankees in nightmarish ways for the next 5-10 years.

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