Monday, July 27, 1992. The Minnesota Twins, defending World Series champs and owner of a 60-38 record, were leading the AL West division by three games over the Oakland Athletics. At the Metrodome that evening, the Twins would begin a big three game series against the A’s with a chance to put Oakland further back.
But things actually tightened up as the A’s won the first two games of the series, thus shaving the Twins’ division lead to a mere one game.
Then came the series finale where the Twins looked to avoid a sweep. They took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning with closer extraordinaire Rick Aguilera on the mound. With one out and two runners on base, an obscure rookie by the name of Eric Fox stepped to the plate. Certainly in a game of such high magnitude, the All-Star closer should have been able to put away the rookie. Instead, Fox drilled a three-run homer to give Oakland a 5-4 lead, an advantage that would not be squandered by their Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley. That pivotal game proved to be a reversal of fortunes as the Twins went 30-31 the rest of the season and finished six games behind Oakland for the AL West title.
I hate to say it (and I hope I’m wrong) but Monday evening’s loss had almost that same death knell feeling to it. With a 6-0 lead against the pitiful Seattle Mariners, the Twins looked poised to extend their lead in the AL Central to a full game over the idle Chicago White Sox. But in a stunning turn of events the anemic Mariners offense scored ten runs in the seventh inning en route to an 11-6 win.
Former Twins skipper Tom Kelly used to say that momentum is as good as next day’s starting pitcher. If Scott Baker pitches a three-hit shutout tonight, then Monday’s debacle will be a distant memory. But if the Twins lose yet another game to the worst team in the American League, uncertainty and doubt may begin to creep into the minds of the young players.
Come October, this three-game set may very well be seen as the pivotal series for the 2008 Twins, one way or another.