Twins lose 13th straight playoff game, tie record

AP, NEW YORK

Thu, Oct 05, 2017 - Page 16

Brian Dozier rounded third and yelled “Let’s go!” at his teammates, and it seemed these Twins might finally be the ones to foil the New York Yankees in the playoffs.

Then the Yankees got their turn at bat.

Minnesota starter Ervin Santana blew a three-run lead in a wild first inning and the Yankees piled on from there, handing the Twins a record-tying 13th consecutive post-season defeat with an 8-4 victory in the American League wild-card game on Tuesday night.

Minnesota matched the Boston Red Sox from 1986 to 1995 for the worst post-season skid ever, with 10 of those losses in New York.

The Yankees eliminated the small-market Twins from four AL Division Series from 2003 to 2010, crushing the World Series aspirations of Minnesota’s self-developed core.

Back in the playoffs with another homegrown group, the Twins got a result all too familiar to Minnesota fans — a celebratory Yankee Stadium sing-along with Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York.

“I’ve heard Frank sing that song probably too many times and you can’t get them back,” Twins manager and Minnesota native Paul Molitor said two weeks ago.

Same old song on Tuesday night.

With so many new faces, this time could have been different.

Joe Mauer is the only holdover on Minnesota’s active roster from their previous playoff appearance seven years ago. He is with a team that has already wrecked some history, too — the Twins went from 103 losses last year to the playoffs this year, a first in major league history.

“There is a lot to be proud about,” Mauer said. “Molitor came in and tried to remind the guys that and myself, tried to remind the guys that.”

The Minnesota Twins even started strong on Tuesday, chasing Yankees ace Luis Severino with one out in the first on home runs by Dozier and Eddie Rosario.

However, Santana then wilted in the bottom of the inning. The 34-year-old righty went to full counts against five of seven batters and New York erased their entire deficit on a three-run homer by Didi Gregorius.

Still, Minnesota got to showcase how they got there — a remarkable feat for a team that picked first overall in the June amateur draft.

The turnaround was fueled by a focus on fundamentals, especially in the field and on the bases.

Byron Buxton exemplifies that, emerging as an AL Gold Glove contender in center-field and one of the game’s premier base runners.

In the second inning, Buxton tracked Todd Frazier’s deep fly ball and made a leaping grab, slamming back-first into the wall before tumbling to the ground — exactly the sort of play Minnesota fans are accustomed to seeing from him.

However, this one was costly. Buxton was lifted in the fourth because of tightness in his back, which stiffened up when he beat out a potential double play for an RBI fielder’s choice and then stole second base in the third.

It left Minnesota without Buxton and slugger Miguel Sano — left off the roster because of a left-shin injury — and the Twins just did not have enough to overcome New York’s overpowering bullpen.

With so many young players, Minnesota have a chance to get back to this stage. After all, if the Twins can put 103 losses behind them, what is one more?

There were not many chances late for Minnesota. With two on and a three-run deficit in the sixth, Mauer hit a drive to deep left-field, but Brett Gardner grabbed it on the warning track in the corner.

New York added another run in the seventh and their lights-out relievers closed up shop after that, with Aroldis Chapman striking out three in the ninth.

Then it was Frank’s turn — again.