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Twins clinch playoff berth, Rocco Baldelli says, "we're just getting going right now"

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Minnesota Twins’ LaMonte Wade Jr., left, Byron Buxton, center, and Max Kepler, right, celebrate a win over the Chicago Cubs in a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

The Twins are headed to the playoffs for the second consecutive season, although the circumstances are much different this year than last.
A year ago, the Twins won the AL Central title for the first time since 2010 in the standard 162-game season. This year, in a pandemic-shortened 60-game season, the Twins clinched one of eight postseason berths in the expanded AL playoff field with an 8-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night at Wrigley Field.
The Twins are 32-22 and sitting in the fifth seed in the AL, percentage points (.596 to .593) behind the fourth-seeded and surging Yankees (31-21). The Twins would play the three-game wild card round at Yankee Stadium, if the season ended today, but there are still six games left in the Twins’ season, including two games against Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday and three against Cincinnati next weekend at Target Field. Minnesota is 21-5 at home this season.
As far as the celebration goes, the differences between clinching a playoff berth in 2019 and 2020 are drastic. Unlike last season, the COVID-19 protocols did not allow for Champagne spraying and the usual partying. The Twins did celebrate but it was far more reserved than usual, and there was likely some social distancing going on. Plus, with the Twins still playing for postseason seeding and wanting to get into the top four to regain home-field advantage, Sunday night’s game against the Cubs is an important one and clinching a playoff spot in this big of a field is only a step.
“It’s still awesome, it’s still the same, we’re still excited,” Twins reliever Tyler Duffey said of clinching. “But there’s a lot of work left to do and we all know that. … I don’t think any of us are content with where we’re at right now. We’ve got plenty of games left we need to win, keep this momentum building and get hot before we head to wherever we end up.”
While the celebration might not have been the same, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli made it clear he wanted his players to enjoy the moment. “It’s special in there,” he said. “You only get so many opportunities to earn something like that, to celebrate it. We’re going to celebrate every time we have the opportunity. The guys are ready. They’re just ready to see what comes next. We’re going to take tonight and have some fun and get ready to go going forward. But we’re going to slow it down for a minute and really enjoy this.”
The wild card round will be played in three days at the home ballpark of the higher seed. That will be followed by the Division Series, American League Championship Series and World Series, which all will be played in a bubble at a neutral site. The AL Division Series’ will be played at Petco Park in San Diego and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The ALCS will be at Petco Park and the World Series will be at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Asked how unusual this season has been, Baldelli said: “We haven’t known from day one what was coming the next day. Is that comfortable, is that uncomfortable? Whatever. Those thoughts had actually been kind of past us a long time ago, where if we think about things like that we’re going to miss what’s going on right now. It’s been different, there have been tough days, there have been great days. It’s been an experience unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the game. Just like it’s been for everybody else at home. It makes it very worthwhile and you feel like you truly did something and earned something, knowing that you’ve gone through it all to get to this point and we’re not done. We’re just getting going right now. That’s the mentality and that’s the feel in that clubhouse.”
The Twins can now begin to focus on ending their 16-game playoff losing streak.
That skid matches the North American major sports record set by the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks from 1975-79. The Twins also are 2-16 against the Yankees in the playoffs after being swept by New York in the ALDS last season. New York has handed the Twins 13 of their 16 consecutive losses, with Oakland getting credit for the other three from a 2006 sweep in the ALDS. The Twins last won a playoff game on Oct. 5, 2004 when they opened the ALDS with a 2-0 win in the Bronx.
So what does Duffey think about playing the Yankees?
“It’s one of those things, whatever you want to call it, baseball is baseball,” Duffey said. “We’re going to show up ready to play. Every guy in this locker room wants to win. There’s no difference. Are they a good team? Yes. Are we a good team? Hell, yes. We’ll see where that road takes us, too. If we end up there, I’m sure every one of us welcomes that, and we’ll look forward to playing some games, wherever we end up.”