Astros rally to eliminate Twins in wild card series, extending playoff losing streak

The Twins won the American League Central by not losing two consecutive games at home during the season. Then everything changed when the postseason started.

The Astros came to Target Field and added more history-making agony to the Twins' postseason record.

After losing 4-1 and 3-1 to the Astros in the first two wild card games, the Twins extended their postseason losing streak to 18 consecutive games, more than any other National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, National Football League or Major League Baseball team.

Going into the Astros series, the Twins were tied with hockey's Chicago Blackhawks with 16 consecutive postseason losses. Basketball's Detroit Pistons currently have lost 14 consecutive and hockey's Los Angeles Kings have lost 14 as well, mostly during the 1990s.

The second-longest losing streak in baseball belongs to the Red Sox, who lost 13 consecutive games from 1986 through 1995, a streak that started when a ground ball rolled through the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner in the infamous 1986 World Series Game 6 against the Mets. The streak continued when the Mets beat the Red Sox in Game 7 of that World Series.

Boston's 13-game losing streak included American League Championship Series four-game sweeps by Oakland, first in 1988 and then in 1990. In 1995, after leagues split into three divisions, the Indians swept the Red Sox in an AL Division Series.

The streak stopped when Boston pitcher Pedro Martínez beat Cleveland in Game 1 of the 1998 ALDS. The game was in Cleveland and the Red Sox won 11-3. Martínez had eight strikeouts and no walks in seven innings.

The Yankees have been the biggest problem for the Twins during October. The Yankees have beaten the Twins in 13 of the 18 losses. Three of the losses have come against the Athletics and two to the Astros.

The Twins have led in 11 of the 18 losses but have been out-scored 107-48 during the streak, including 44-14 from the seventh inning on.

The Twins' last postseason win came in Game 1 of their ALDS in 2004 when lefty pitcher Johan Santana beat the Yankees and Mike Mussina 2-0 to silence a rocking Yankee Stadium crowd of 56,000.

Game 2 of the series was likely the most frustrating with the Twins three outs away from returning to Minnesota with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. But the Twins lost 7-6 in 12 innings.

Here's what happened: The Twins' Torii Hunter hit a home run in the top of the 12th inning to give his team a 6-5 lead.

Then, in the bottom of the 12th, the Twins, trying to get a third inning out of closer Joe Nathan, fell apart - and fell apart quickly. The Yankees' winning rally seemed to take only seconds - and the ballpark was considerably empty given the game was lasting 4:19.

The bottom of the 12th for New York started with Nathan striking out John Olerud. Then, Nathan walked light-hitting Miguel Cairo - his biggest mistake - and Derek Jeter, putting runners on first and second with one out.

The Yankees' Álex Rodríguez hit a ground-rule double to score Cairo, Jeter going to third. Hideki Matsui's sacrifice fly scored Jeter and the Twins were in shock. They haven't won since.

Minnesota had chances Wednesday against the Astros. Luis Arraez tried to score from first on a double to left by Nelson Cruz, but was thrown out at the plate on a relay from shortstop Carlos Correa. In the seventh inning, Correa hit his 12th home run in 52 playoff games to get the Astros going on their win.

The Twins, though, didn't hit in either of their two games, getting two runs and seven hits combined. Their power-hitting offense was more versatile this season, but two of their top on-base guys, Arraez and Jorge Polanco, struggled. Arraez was injured and Polanco didn't hit for average.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said current players aren't aware of the Twins' postseason history that includes names such as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Francisco Liriano.

"At the end of the day, we didn't get the job done,'' Twins outfielder Max Kepler said Wednesday via Zoom.

And that keeps the Twins losing streak alive in history.

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