December 29, 2020

81-75 with 6 games to go and it all fell apart for the Twins in ’84

After I became a Twins fan (yes, there was a beginning), I suffered through a 102-loss season in 1982, another down year in ’83 and then, incredibly it seemed, the Twins began to show signs of life in 1984. They were helped by a young nucleus of rising stars, including Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola (who would win 18 games that season) and Gary Gaetti. Late in the season, the Twins took a four-game winning streak into Chicago and made it five in a row after an 8-4 win over the White Sox. Sweet Music went eight-plus innings to win his 18th and Puckett powered the lineup with a 3-for-5 day at the top of the order. After that win, the Twins stood at 81-75, a half-game out of first place in the AL West with six games to play.

Little did they know what awaited them.

Sept. 25: The Twins five-game winning streak came to an end after they lost 8-4 to Tom Seaver and the big inning, a disastrous 7-run second inning that put the game out of reach. The big inning would haunt the Twins for the remainder of the season.

Sept. 26: Another Twins loss and another big inning, a five-run third that propelled the White Sox to a 9-3 win.

After dropping two of three games to the South Siders, the Twins headed to Cleveland for the final four games of the season, including, I think, the worst regular-season loss in Twins history.

Sept. 27: Before only 3,700 fans, the game was scoreless until the Twins put two on the board in the seventh and a run in the eighth. The Indians countered with three in the bottom half of the inning, and then the Twins handed the ball to reliever Ron Davis. You can guess what happened next: Davis served up a home run for the 4-3 walk-off loss. It was his 13th blown save of the season, and it would only get worse for him and the Twins.

Sept. 28: Perhaps out of desperation, the Twins raced out to a 10-0 lead going into the bottom of the third inning. But they allowed two runs in that frame, seven more in the sixth, and a run in the eighth on a home run off Davis that tied the game at 10-10. Davis was lifted for another pitcher, but he also had walked three batters, so after the new pitcher allowed two hits, the winning run scored and was charged to Davis for the painful 11-10 loss.

The Classic Minnesota Twins! blog has a post about this game, including a wire service story that quotes starter Frank Viola.

“Life goes on,” he reportedly said. “This is a frustrating time in the season to do this, but what’s done is done. I hope in the pennant race next year I’ll be able to win one and not blow one.”

Sept. 29: The Twins again took the early lead in Cleveland, but couldn’t hold it to lose 6-4.

Sept. 30: And finally old friend, Bert Blyleven, traded away by the Twins in 1976, faced his old club as a member of the Tribe. It was all over. Bert went seven-plus innings to improve to 19-7 with a 2.87 ERA and the Twins lost 7-4. The Twins ended the season at 81-81, tied for second place but three games out of first. It was a weird season in the AL West. Only one team, the Kansas City Royals, had a winning record. They clinched the division after the Twins’ Sept. 28 loss.


Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.