October 6, 2004
Bet the Underdog: It's time for the resilient Twins to beat the Yankees (Brad Zellar, 10/06/04, City Pages)
Given that the Twins wrapped up their third consecutive Central Division title with a more than nine-game lead over second-place Chicago, a casual observer could easily conclude that the 2004 season was a cakewalk in Minnesota. Pardon the mixed metaphor, but as those of us who rode the roller coaster from start to finish know, this isn't, alas, a team that's mastered the art of the cakewalk. What they've done for the last three years, though, is win when it counts, at least during the regular season.Posted by Orrin Judd at October 6, 2004 12:04 AM
By the time you read this, the Twins will already have at least one playoff game under their belts in New York. Depending on how things go--or went--in that first game, you may be feeling giddy, uneasy, or even very despondent. At this point I obviously have no control over that. But I can at least remind you of three games out of the 162 the Twins played before boarding their plane to New York that made it possible for you to still be feeling anything but the hand-wringing woe people are experiencing in places like Oakland, Chicago, and San Francisco right now.
The first game of the trio was back on June 9, when Johan Santana took the mound against the New York Mets at the Metrodome. Santana at the time was 2-4 with a 5.50 earned run average and had lost his last four starts, including a now mind-boggling 17-7 shellacking at the hands of the White Sox on May 23, a game in which he lasted just three innings and surrendered seven earned runs.
The Twins were 31-26 and a game behind in the Central going into Santana's start versus the Mets, and he pitched seven innings in Minnesota's 5-3 victory that day, giving up one run while striking out ten and walking none. Following that start, which lowered his ERA to 5.11, Santana said, "I think this will be the beginning of something good," which proved to be the understatement of the season. The now-prohibitive favorite to win the AL Cy Young award proceeded to go 17-2 the rest of the way, including 5-0 with a 0.45 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 40 September innings. To put that in perspective, consider that the Twins were 15 games above .500 after the All-Star break; over the same period, Santana was 13-0.
On July 24 the White Sox held a half-game lead