Last night's was a game the Twins needed to win. They'd lost the first game in Cleveland, the pitching match-up favored them heavily, and the next games will present a brutal challenge, as the Twins face perhaps baseball's best starter in Cliff Lee tonight and then head to Tampa Bay for four games against a playoff team.
Despite getting an awful outing from Francisco Liriano, the Twins managed to put themselves in position to win last night, rallying back from an 8-1 deficit to take a 9-8 lead in the eighth inning. But, as has been the case so often late in this season, the Twins couldn't finish off an opponent that they had on the ropes, and ended up losing in heartbreaking fashion as Eddie Guardado sent the game to extra innings by surrendering a homer in the eighth and Joe Nathan ended up giving up a walk-off three-run bomb to Victor Martinez in the 11th. In combination with a White Sox victory, the loss pushed the Twins 2.5 games out of first place with 11 left to play as they enter a stretch of five games they'll have a hard time winning. It's very possible -- perhaps even probable -- that by the time the White Sox come to Minnesota for a three-game series in six days, the Twins will be nearly eliminated from postseason contention.
As much as we want to tell ourselves that this team wasn't even expected to compete, and this season has been an unexpected treat up to this point, seeing the Twins slide into obscurity here during the final stretch is awfully tough to watch. Last night's comeback was fun to watch, but it almost seemed inevitable that they'd end up taking a loss.
The Twins were a great story this year -- an upstart group of inexperienced youngsters defying the odds and outplaying high-priced division rivals. But now they seem to be running out of gas down the stretch, unable to close out the amazing wins that watermarked the middle months of their season. Perhaps it's something we should have seen coming.