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Twins' bright season dashed in playoff sweep

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A man in a twins jersey reaches to catch a flying red hanky.
Fans catch Homer Hankies being tossed to them as they enter Target Field before the Twins' third game in the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees in Minneapolis on Monday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Target Field was about as loud as a Minnesota sports venue can get at the start of the night.

The raucous crowd under the stadium lights in a dark downtown Minneapolis felt more like a concert than a ball game.

Fans like Karen Thole of Maplewood filed into the stadium hours before the 7:40 p.m. first pitch.

A Twins fan for five decades, Thole was optimistic about her home team breaking its streak of losing a dozen playoff games in a row to the Yankees.

"I just love this team,” she said. “They're never out. I mean it can be bottom of nine, two outs, and they can find a way to make it happen ... They don't have too many three-game losing streaks and a lot of three-game winning streaks."

An elderly man holds the hand of and looks at a young boy.
Nine-year-old Christian O'Brien greets 98-year-old World War II Navy veteran Joseph Stephes before the start of the Twins' third game in the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees at Target Field in Minneapolis on Monday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Sheryl Cleveland was ready to put the Twins' playoff losses behind her, too.

"I'm hoping that they have figured out what to do and tonight they'll be able to do it,” she said. “they're gonna win."

But the Yankees jumped out to an early lead, scoring a run in both the second and third innings. They added another run in the seventh. Meanwhile, the Twins’ vaunted batting power failed them as runner after runner was stranded, nine in all. The Yankees’ Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres contributed runs and startling defensive plays.

Then in the eighth inning Eddie Rosario's solo home run gave Minnesota a breath of life.

The Yankees answered the next inning with two more runs of their own, insurance on what would be a commanding win and sweep of the Twins.

Their season ended as Nelson Cruz looked at a called strike three with two runners on base. The score was 5-1. 

People swing red hankies above their heads.
Fans spin their Home Hankies during the Twins' third game in the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees in Minneapolis on Monday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The Twins now hold a record they'd like to forget — they're one of two North American professional sports teams to lose 16 straight playoff games. The only other team to hit such a milestone was the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks in the late 1970s.

The sweep was a sudden end to a strong year. Rocco Baldelli's first season as manager saw the team hit 101 wins, the second most in franchise history.

In his post-game press conference, Baldelli was quick to congratulate the Yankees and his own players.

"I mean it when I say to you that I do not sit here frustrated at all. I am extremely happy and extremely proud of everything that we just went through over the course of this season. Our guys should be walking out of that clubhouse with their heads held high.”

This year’s Twins set a major league record for most team home runs in the regular season — a statistic where they beat the Yankees.

For Baldelli, the last three games were just that: three games where the Yankees outplayed the Twins.

“We got beat over the last three days and there's no way around that,” he said. “But what an amazing season it was. It was very special for me and I told the guys as much and I hope every single person in that clubhouse feels as proud as I do right now.”