In the losing clubhouse, there wasn’t much talk about mental hang-ups or playoff droughts. The Twins still don’t believe the past has anything to do with the present, their 12 consecutive playoff losses to the Yankees having little to do with the precarious situation they now find themselves in.
“Zero,” said Jake Odorizzi, the Twins’ Game 3 starting pitcher, said after the Yankees’ 8-2 victory at the Stadium that has them within one win of moving on to the ALCS. “I’ve only lost two. The other 10 were before my time. There’s been plenty of times we’ve lost two games in a row and came back to win the third. We’re in that situation right now.”
The talk among the AL Central champions was more about what went wrong in these first two games and what has to go right if there is to be a return trip to The Bronx. They see this as a two-game losing streak — an ugly two games in which they have been outscored 18-7, outhit, outpitched and outdefended, but just two games.
The fact the Yankees have won 12 straight over Minnesota in the postseason by a combined 79-18 score isn’t significant in the minds of the Twins. What is important is them rebounding from these two losses and getting a well-pitched game.
“We need to get the lead, play with the lead and feel what it’s like to have that adrenaline behind us, instead of having to claw our way back,” Odorizzi said.
They gave the Yankees plenty of credit, pointing to their relentless lineup and quality pitching. But the Twins don’t feel they have performed like a team that won 101 games and claimed the AL Central crown. C.J. Cron and Mitch Garver both believe they were timid at the plate on Saturday in managing just six hits, taking strikes and chasing balls.
“We weren’t swinging with the aggression we have all year,” Cron said.
Mostly, the Twins expressed hope that a return home in front of their fans will spark them. It will give them a chance, after Sunday’s workout day, to start fresh and forget about these nightmarish defeats to the Yankees.
“We’ll have a chance to prove who we are as a team,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz said.
They have no other choice. The only other option is accepting the Yankees as their superiors. The Twins aren’t ready to do that. They remain confident, even if the first two games of the series have reminded everyone of the history these two teams have when they face each other.
“We rely on ourselves. We pick ourselves up. We’ve done a great job with that all year long,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Any sort of stretch where things aren’t going well, that’s fine. We’re going to deal with that, and we’re going to be perfectly OK, and we’re going to come out fighting and ready to go.”