The streak is over! After filling their roles as the postseason doormat for the last 19 years, the Twins have finally won a playoff game. You have to go back 18 games all the way to their 2004 ALDS Game 1 win over the Yankees for the last time Minnesota was victorious in the postseason. We’ve got the recap of that game plus the three other contests on display on this action-packed first day of the 2023 MLB playoffs.
ALWCS Game 1
(Rangers lead, 1-0)
When Brian Cashman traded Jordan Montgomery to the Cardinals for Harrison Bader at the 2022 MLB trade deadline, the Yankees’ GM was quoted as saying he didn’t envision Montgomery making their postseason roster. Well, the homegrown Yankee proved that wrong and then some, tossing seven scoreless innings allowing six hits and no walks with five strikeouts against the second-best offense in the AL.
The only two Yankees pitchers in the last 20 years to match his feat of seven scoreless innings in a playoff start were Phil Hughes in Game 3 of the 2010 ALDS and Masahiro Tanaka in Game 3 of the ALDS and and Game 5 of the ALCS in 2017. The 30 year old lefty reinvented himself after leaving the Yankees, trading out his heavy reliance on curveball and changeup for an increase in sinker usage and wound up with the fifth-best sinker in baseball in 2023 by Statcast’s Run Value metric. The pitch worked well for him yesterday afternoon, inducing a healthy amount of grounders while limiting the Rays to just three hard-hit balls across his seven innings.
The Rangers were also aided by some brainless baseball by their opponents, the Rays committing a franchise postseason high four errors, two failed sac bunt attempts and a run-scoring wild pitch. Tyler Glasnow was far from perfect, walking five batters in five innings, but the breakdowns in fundamentals did him no favors.
Texas opened the scoring in the second, Josh Jung cashing in a pair of singles by Nathaniel Lowe and Leody Taveras with a sac fly. They’d fail to capitalize on runners on second and third in the fourth following a Jonah Heim leadoff single and Evan Carter two-out double, but did manage to double their lead in the fifth, loading the bases with no outs on a Corey Seager double, Robbie Grossman walk, and Adolis García single off Glasnow’s thigh before a wild pitch brought Seager home. They’d again load the bases in the frame but Glasnow escaped with a pair of strikeouts.
The following inning the Rangers gave themselves a far more comfortable cushion, Carter and Marcus Semien drawing a pair of leadoff walks, setting up a Seager single to center to plate the pair, aided by a failed fielding attempt by Jose Siri immediately followed by a throwing error.
The Rays had their opportunities, the best chance coming in the second as a pair of singles by Curtis Mead and Taylor Walls put runners on the corners with one out. However, Siri popped out to a diving Montgomery on a sac bunt attempt, who would strand the pair with an inning-ending strikeout. From there, the home team never managed more than one baserunner in an inning as they drop the first game of the series, 4-0.
ALWCS Game 1
(Twins lead, 1-0)
When the Twins last won a playoff game, star slugging rookie Royce Lewis was five years old. There was a different feel in the air at Target Field (likely aided by the away team not being the Yankees), the morbid expectation of losing replaced by a hopeful optimism that the winds of change were blowing at last.
Lewis had already made history during the regular season, clubbing four grand slams to break the single-season franchise record of three shared by Bob Allison, Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett and Torii Hunter. He once again turned provider for his team, accounting for all of their offense against likely AL Cy Young top-three finalist Kevin Gausman.
Edouard Julien led off the first with a walk, setting up a two-run blast to left off Lewis’ bat. Two innings later, Lewis struck again, this time leading off with a mammoth opposite field shot to give the Twins an early 3-0 lead.
Gausman would only last four innings, giving up three runs on three hits and three walks, to be replaced by a parade of five relievers that Toronto manager John Schneider surely would have loved to save for later in the series. Meanwhile, Twins starter Pablo López continued his brilliant work since his offseason trade from Miami, holding the Blue Jays to a run in the sixth off a Kevin Kiermaier RBI single while otherwise limiting Toronto to five hits and two walks in 5.2 innings. In one of the rare win-win trades of recent times, Luis Arraez won the batting crown with the Marlins while López gave the Twins the frontline starter they’ve so desperately needed. Neither bullpen would give up a run as the Twins finally collected their long-awaited playoff victory, 3-1.