Top moments from the Twins’ 2019 regular season
The Minnesota Twins’ 2019 season gave us many things: a record 307 home runs, the second-most wins in franchise history (101) and a new catchy nickname for our favorite baseball team — the “Bomba Squad.”
Before Minnesota begins its (hopefully long) playoff journey, we decided to compile the top moments from a regular season to remember.
March 28: Jose Berrios leads Twins to 2-0 win on Opening Day
Minnesota began 2019 with rather low expectations — the team put together a nice offseason but was coming off a disappointing 78-84 campaign and had a new manager in Rocco Baldelli. Luckily for Baldelli, Berrios made the skipper’s job pretty easy on Opening Day. Berrios outdueled Corey Kluber, holding the three-time defending division champions Cleveland Indians scoreless through 7 2/3 innings while fanning 10 batters. Berrios and the Twins made it clear they were gunning for the division from Day 1.
7 2/3 IP
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) March 28, 2019
May 28: Devin Smeltzer’s MLB debut
Smeltzer is one of the best stories of the Twins’ season — nay, the entire MLB season. Diagnosed with cancer at the age of nine, Smeltzer battled it for years and was pronounced in complete remission in 2012. Against all odds, Smeltzer made his big-league debut May 28 against Milwaukee at Target Field. Smeltzer dazzled the Brewers’ dangerous lineup for six shutout innings, allowing just three hits while fanning seven. Acquired in the Brian Dozier trade at the 2018 deadline, Smeltzer went on to post a 2-2 record and 3.86 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 11 games (six starts, 49 innings) and has a legitimate shot at cracking Minnesota’s postseason roster. FOX Sports North reporter Marney Gellner caught up with his parents while he was on the mound in the third inning of his debut. Let’s just say you should locate a Kleenex box nearby before watching this video.
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) May 29, 2019
June 18: Max Kepler singlehandedly beats Boston in 17 innings
It was the longest game in Target Field history, all thanks to Kepler. With the Twins trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning, the 26-year-old knocked Mitch Garver in with a single to right field that tied the game. Boston thought it had the game in the 13th inning when Mookie Betts homered, but Kepler followed it up with a 391-foot moonshot of his own to extend the game yet again. Four innings later, Kepler came through again, bringing home rookie Luis Arraez on another single to right. Official game time: five hours, 45 minutes.
KEPLER SAYS GOOD NIGHT! 😜
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) June 19, 2019
July 13: Kepler hits nothing but homers against Trevor Bauer
For whatever reason, some hitters just have some pitchers figured out – and vice versa. For example, Twins Hall of Fame catcher Joe Mauer logged a career .317/.423/.537 slash line against former league MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. But what Kepler did to Cleveland starting pitcher Trevor Bauer was on another level. Kepler homered three times against Bauer on June 6. A little over a month later, the two met again and Kepler took Bauer deep in both of his first two at-bats. The Twins outfielder became the first player – ever – to homer five consecutive times against the same pitcher in a single season. Kepler had Bauer so rattled that the Indians traded him to Cincinnati two weeks later (ok, that wasn’t the reasoning … but still).
ARE YOU KIDDING, MAX KEPLER!?!?
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) July 13, 2019
Sano wasn’t even in the lineup in the Twins’ series opener against Atlanta. In fact, the slugger spent most of the game preparing in the batting cage with hitting coach Rudy Fernandez. Baldelli called Sano’s game in the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitting him for Ehire Adrianza. On an 0-1 count in a tie game, Sano socked a baseball off the living wall in center field for the Twins’ first pinch-hit, walk-off homer since 2006. The best part was Ronald Acuna Jr.’s reaction. The Braves’ outfielder knew it was gone so quickly he almost beat Sano back to the dugout.
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) August 6, 2019
Aug. 19-20: #RallySquirrel visits Target Field
Things got a bit hairy at Target Field. No, not when Cleveland battled back from 11 1/2 games out to take the AL Central lead Aug. 12. We’re talking about the Twins’ new unofficial mascot – the #RallySquirrel. The squirrel initially showed its bushy tail Aug. 19 by sprinting around the ballpark into the Twins’ dugout in the first inning of a game against Chicago. The following night, the squirrel made its presence known once again by miraculously nutmegging Kepler at first base. Minnesota’s dugout quickly fell in love with the squirrel, and now bring a stuffed animal squirrel named Hebert (the “H” is silent) everywhere they go.
One last squirrel video for the evening…this time in slow motion! pic.twitter.com/CBzxKnKRs5
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) August 21, 2019
Sept. 25: Twins clinch AL Central title
It was a long time coming. With a 5-1 victory over Detroit, Minnesota’s magic number flipped to zero and the Twins were crowned champions of the AL Central division for the first time since 2010. Cue the celebration.
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) September 26, 2019
Here’s to hoping for many more bottles of champagne in October.