How the postseason-bound Twins shocked the baseball world in 2017
Not many people gave the Twins much of a chance at a winning season in 2017, let alone a postseason berth. They hadn't played October baseball since 2010, and last year, they posted the worst record in the Majors at 59-103.
Then again, the Twins had entered 2016 with the game's fifth-best farm system, so it was reasonable to think that some of that young talent might break out in 2017. As it turned out, they did that and then some, keeping the team around the .500 mark until August -- when Minnesota reeled off a 20-10 stretch that put them in the driver's seat for the American League's last Wild Card spot.
The Twins held that lead in September and, improbably, now find themselves en route to the AL Wild Card Game against the Yankees on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on ESPN. Here's a look back at how they did it:
The Star Player
Byron Buxton might be the flashiest name on this roster, thanks to an .887 OPS since returning from the DL on Aug. 1. However, the most dangerous presence in the Twins' lineup all year long has been slugging leadoff hitter Brian Dozier.
In 2016, Dozier set an AL record for most homers by a second baseman, and he's remained a threat at the top of the lineup. Dozier leads the club with 34 long balls this year and was key to the Twins' August surge with a 1.023 OPS that month.
Sometimes, even his bunts turn into home runs.
The Unsung Hero
Eddie Rosario earned down-ballot Rookie of the Year votes in 2015 for his strong first-year campaign, but his production slipped enough in 2016 that he was demoted for a month and a half. The left fielder had no interest in going through that again, and he made manager Paul Molitor's trust in him pay off.
Rosario has been almost as consistent and productive as Dozier, playing in 149 games and posting an .847 OPS that tops even Dozier. Minnesota might have hoped for a bounce-back from Rosario, but 27 homers? That's something else.
The Coolest Moment
The franchise was dealt a devastating blow when legend Rod Carew suffered a heart attack in September 2015 and later had to undergo heart and kidney transplants. Through determination and hard work in rehab, Carew recovered -- and on July 3, he flew for the first time since his December 2016 operation.
His destination? Target Field, where he doffed his cap at his old second-base position and threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Twins' game against the Hall of Famer's other team, the Angels. The Twins won one for Carew that night, 9-5.
The Weirdest Moment
At the start of the season, there's no way that the Twins could have possibly envisioned that they would have a promotion featuring Bartolo Colon. After all, the veteran began the season with the Braves, and it's not like Colon had any ties to the Twins.
In July, though, the Braves let Colon go, and the Twins picked him up for their rotation. The 44-year-old pitched a little better in Minnesota, even becoming the oldest AL pitcher since Nolan Ryan to throw a complete game, so the Twins decided to host Big Sexy Night for him on Sept. 15.
Colon even walked out from the bullpen to Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack." The night was certainly a unique experience:
Of course, there was plenty more to love about the Twins' surprise season -- for Cespedes Family BBQ's take, check out the video atop this post.