The long wait is over and the Minnesota Twins are again AL Central champions.
After beating the Tigers 5-1 on Wednesday night in Detroit and reducing their magic number to one, the Twins waited in their clubhouse hoping the Chicago White Sox would beat the second-place Cleveland Indians. When the White Sox beat the Indians 8-3 in Chicago, it gave Minnesota its first AL Central title since 2010 and the celebration was on.
All the talk about magic numbers was finished and the Twins’ focus can now shift to playing in the American League Division series beginning a week from Friday. The division title came on first-year manager Rocco Baldelli’s 38th birthday and near the end of a season in which the Twins held first place in the AL Central for nearly the entire summer.
“It’s a beautiful night for everybody here,” Baldelli told Fox Sports North during a celebration in the clubhouse. “When you spend this much time working towards a goal and you try to do it as best you can everyday, and you try to do it the right way, and you watch all the people around you doing it the right away, it feels great.
“There aren’t many moments where you get to sit back and at least for a night look at what you’ve accomplished and appreciate it and say thanks to people. This is one of those nights and we’re going to spend the time to enjoy it while we can. We’ll be back at it again tomorrow. There are certainly times, like I said, to say thanks to everybody and have a great time. This is one of those really special nights.”
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) September 26, 2019
One of the reasons the Twins found themselves in this position was the presence of 39-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Signed as a free agent last December, Cruz has proven to be a key to the team’s success on and off the field. Cruz has hit 40 home runs and provided the type of veteran leadership the Twins lacked last season.
“Watch us play, that’s all I can say,” Cruz said when asked about the team’s success on FSN during the Champagne and beer celebration. “If you watch us play every day, you know what we’re all about. … We have another step to go so let’s enjoy today and tomorrow we’ll figure out what to do with the next series.”
— Dustin Morse (@morsecode) September 26, 2019
Pitcher Jake Odorizzi, wearing an “October Reign” T-shirt that was passed out to players as the celebration began, said of the Twins’ success: “I think it was a culmination of a lot of guys putting in a lot of work. It took 25, 40 other guys to get to where we’re at right now. We needed contributions from everybody up and down the line. … We’re incredibly happy and there’s nothing better than this right here.”
Randy Dobnak gave up one unearned run and one hit in six innings, and the Twins scored a combined five runs in the seventh and eighth innings en route to beating the Tigers. The Twins improved to 98-60 and are now 52-25 on the road. That is the most road victories in team history.
The Twins trailed 1-0 in the top of the seventh inning when rookie Luis Arraez hit a two-run homer. Eddie Rosario added a two-run homer in the eighth inning. Dobnak, who has made a strong case to get a start in the ALDS, lowered his ERA to 1.59 in nine games and five starts.
“He was awesome,” Baldelli said of Dobnak. “His latest outings, they have kind of resembled each other. He’s kind of one-upping himself somehow every time he goes out there. He was locked in from the very beginning. I don’t know what else you can say. I think he’s going to be feeling really good heading out and going to his wedding. This is a great outing and just a great contribution to sit on over the weekend.”
Dobnak began the season pitching at Single-A Fort Myers before making stops at Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Rochester. Because he did not expect to be in the big leagues, Dobnak and his fiancée, Aerial Munson, scheduled their wedding for Saturday in Williamsport, Md. The date actually was picked two years ago and so the Twins gave Dobnak permission to leave the club for a few days. Fortunately, the newlyweds did not plan their honeymoon until the winter.