Let it be remembered that when the modern-day Twins have their backs to the wall, they hide behind drapes.
They lost their 18th consecutive postseason game and ninth elimination game in a row Wednesday, ending their season with a 3-1 loss to the average Astros at Target Field.
Do not let the oddities of this short, strange season distract you from the fact that this was the most embarrassing loss of this record-breaking streak.
They did not have to play in Yankee Stadium. They did not have to face a superior team. They did not need to solve an ace.
They managed two runs in 18 innings against a mediocre Houston pitching staff and gave up big hits to a group of hitters who have shrunk before our eyes since they were caught cheating.
In 18 innings, no Twin not named Nelson Cruz produced an extra-base hit or an RBI. Their Home Run Robe became a K Cape.
The previous low-water mark for Twins postseason failure was considered the 2006 ALDS sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s. This is worse than that.
That Twins team was excellent for four months, but lost Francisco Liriano and pitched Boof Bonser in Game 2 against a team featuring Frank Thomas, Eric Chavez and Nick Swisher at his peak.
Those A’s went 93-69. These Astros went 29-31 and had to face a Twins team that went 36-24 and sent two quasi-aces to the mound in Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios.
This was a mismatch, until Eddie Rosario’s first-inning line drive found a glove Tuesday afternoon, and the shoulders of an entire franchise slumped.
If Astros right fielder Josh Reddick had played Nelson Cruz’s Game 1 drive better, The Bomba Squad would have managed one run in two games, at home, against a bunch of average pitchers.
If someone in your family displayed the body language of most of these Twins the past two days, you’d call a doctor, or a priest.
Which is why manager Rocco Baldelli’s decision Wednesday to pull starter Jose Berrios after five innings felt so deadly.
Berrios was the one Twin besides Cruz this series who looked like he wanted to channel Jack Morris or Kirby Puckett. He cruised through five innings and retired the last three batters he faced. Baldelli replaced him with Cody Stashak, who allowed one run in two innings, a long home run by Carlos Correa.
“When we saw Berrios get pumped up after the fifth, we got fired up by that,” Cruz said. “But we didn’t get the big hit.”
Baldelli replaced Berrios after four innings and 88 pitches during Game 1 of the 2019 ALDS in Yankee Stadium. He replaced Jake Odorizzi in Game 3 after five innings. In this series, he replaced Kenta Maeda after five innings and 91 pitches, and Berrios after five innings and 75 pitches.
I’ll leave out Game 2 last year, when Randy Dobnak lasted only two innings as a Johnny Allstaff spot starter. In the four games Baldelli has had one of his best starters on the mound in the postseason, those starters have allowed four runs in 19 innings. His relievers have allowed 17 runs in 22 innings.
Maybe those starters would have failed if asked to pitch another inning or two, but running away from his best starters has proved to be a losing strategy for Baldelli.
This is a strange strategy for a franchise that loves remembering Morris talking manager Tom Kelly into letting him pitch the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
“We want to do better,” Baldelli said.
Baldelli and many of his players spoke of the fickleness of a short series, but when you lose in the same manner game after game with the same players, you have a problem in need of fixing.
These Twins are missing something, whether it’s gamesmanship, hitting savvy, intuitive strategy or mental toughness.
Good luck solving all of those problems in one winter.
If the standard is winning a World Series, they don’t look much closer to their goal today than they did two years ago.
©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)