For the 11th consecutive season, Major League Baseball is going to set a record for strikeouts. The new marks are not simply incremental, either. In 2008, hitters struck out 32,884 times. At the current pace in 2018, they will strike out 43,163 times, which would obliterate the record of 40,104 set last year. This is a game careening toward a reckoning borne of inaction, and when nearly 23 percent of plate appearances end with a third strike, the culprit is clear.
It is no surprise, with MLB’s laissez-faire approach to strikeouts, that the sport-wide batting average has cratered to .241. The only two worse seasons in the game’s history were 1908, in the heart of the Dead Ball Era, and 1968, a year so disquieting it prompted the league to lower the mound from 15 inches to 10. Certainly this could be mildly anomalous, a function of the horrid weather, but over the last decade, the most a batting average has risen from April over the rest of the year was 8 points and the most a strikeout rate has dipped was .40 percent. April is no perfect indicator, but it does forecast trends quite well.
Individually, the samples remain too small to extrapolate – a point the great Russell Carleton made in a Twitter thread this week. There are, he said, some performances that are real, and some that are pure noise, and differentiating between the two is not altogether realistic. So as we bop around from name to name this week, consider this 10 Degrees’ pre-emptive caveat emptor.
Still, when Ian Happ and Miguel Sano are striking out in 44.6 percent of their plate appearances, as they were entering Sunday, that is cause for Cubs and Twins games to be rated TV-MA. Chris Davis set the record at 37.2 percent last year. In history, only 45 players have finished the season with a strikeout rate of 30 percent or higher. In 2018, the list is 21 players long.
It’s gotten to the point that 200 no longer is an ignominious number for strikeouts. It’s only happened 10 times. That number could double this year ago. And if he keeps playing as miserably as he has …
1. Yoenis Cespedes could become baseball’s first 300-strikeout man. In 89 plate appearances this season, he has punched out 37 times. Take that number over his 20 games, multiple it by 162 and the result: 299.7 strikeouts. Round up, for the sake of making this ridiculous exercise just a little more ridiculous, and voila: 300.
OK. Yoenis Cespedes is not going to strike out 300 times this year. (He already has missed a game, so 162 was an incorrect multiplier.) He may not even strike out 200. It’s harrowing still to see a player who never carried the reputation as one of the sport’s strikeout kings turn into the most whifftastic player of 2018. Cespedes’ career strikeout rate coming into the season was 20.5 percent. This year it’s 41.6 %.
A quarter of Cespedes’ strikes are coming on swings and misses. He is swinging at nearly 30 percent of first pitches. The livelihood of a free swinger exists on the expectation of contact. When contact vanishes, so does production. Cespedes is hitting .195/.258/.354. That the New York Mets have been what they’ve been with a black hole in the Nos. 2 (Cespedes) and 3 (Jay Bruce) spots speaks even more to their impressiveness. Across town …
2. Giancarlo Stanton has been the Cespedes of the Bronx, with a strikingly similar line: .185/.283/.395. He went 0 for 4 Sunday with just one strikeout, which is something of an improvement, seeing as he entered the day punching out more than 35 percent of the time.
As vociferous as the Yankee Stadium crowd has been with its boos, this is one of those cases where patience is warranted. This is not the first month Stanton has struck out 35 percent of the time. There was May 2016 and September 2012. Fifteen times in his career he has finished a month in excess of 30 percent. And, yes, part of what catapulted him to the National League MVP award last season was cutting down on strikeouts. So it is troublesome. It’s also not mutually exclusive with him producing.
There is a reality about Giancarlo Stanton: He is always going to strike out a lot. It’s the price a team is willing to pay for the 500-foot home runs he hits when he’s not walking back to the dugout. The fear, of course, is that the Yankees tethered themselves to more than a quarter billion dollars of contract with a strikeout machine. To which the only answer is: Wait more than a month. Or two. Or even a year. Albatrosses manifest themselves over time, and Giancarlo Stanton isn’t anywhere close to one yet. And anyway, so long as …
3. Didi Gregorius is in the lineup, he’s going to balance out whatever Stanton and Judge do in terms of swinging and missing. He is proof that not only can players evolve but can take evolutionary leaps well into their career.
And with another reminder – caveat emptor, Passan, caveat freakin’ emptor – just look at what the 28-year-old Gregorius has done. The guy whose career high in walks of 37 came in his rookie season five years ago already has drawn 15, and his strikeout Sunday gave him seven in 86 plate appearances. Gregorius’ 8.1 percent strikeout rate is among the best in the game, alongside Jose Ramirez, Andrelton Simmons, Joe Panik and Max Kepler.
It’s the Ramirezes and Keplers and Gregoriuses – Gregorii? – who are the most impressive, because their incredible bat-to-ball skills come with pop to match. Gregorius bopped his sixth home run of the season Sunday and ended the day with a .333/.442/.742 line, the sort that puts him in the company of …
4. Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper, two others with enviable walk-to-strikeout ratios. The walk, incidentally, has made quite the comeback. In 2018, 9.2 percent of plate appearances have ended in a walk. That would be the highest since 2000 and third highest since 1955, the tail end of the walkingest period in baseball history.
Part of Betts’ brilliance always has been hits ability to put the ball in play, and for the first time this season, he’s among the rare players who walk more than they strike out. There is not a bad hitter on the list; either he has a high on-base percentage or punches out so little that the sheer nature of putting the ball in play makes him inherently productive.
Harper may be the most interesting name because the profundity of his rise. The closest he came was in his MVP-winning season three years ago and he walked 19 percent of the time and struck out 20. This year, his walk rate is at 28.1 percent, which would be the highest number since Barry Bonds’ historic 37.6 percent in 2004. Over a 162-game season, Harper is on pace for 199 walks.
He and Betts are the MVPs of April for good reason. Though an argument could be made that …
5. Jake Marisnick is the real MVP of the first month, because he’s done something that seems impossible: strike out 29 times without drawing a walk. That’s 29 in 54 at-bats. Take that, Ian Happ and Miguel Sano.
Sorry. This isn’t just to single out Marisnick. Avisail Garcia is 74 plate appearances into the season without a walk and with 17 strikeouts. Evan Longoria’s numbers are quite gnarly: 76 plate appearances, 23 strikeouts, two walks. There are so many more examples. It is baseball in 2018. Amid the splendor is manifold ugliness.
Or, from the perspective of …
6. Patrick Corbin and those like him, incredible amounts of beauty. Pitchers love strikeouts. The randomness of balls in play vanishes. The feeling of dominance blooms. It’s intoxication. And nobody has struck out as many hitters this season as Patrick Corbin.
Yes, that last statement is indeed true. After he punched out 11 Padres on Sunday, Corbin raised his season total to 48 in 33 1/3 innings. That is 12.96 strikeouts per nine innings, a number that deserves some context.
The first time a starting pitcher qualified for the ERA title and struck out more than 11 per nine was Doc Gooden in 1984. Nolan Ryan was the only one to reach it over the next decade. Then came a seven-year stretch in which Randy Johnson did it six times and Pedro Martinez and Kerry Wood three apiece.
Then came the strikeout boom, and with it 11 no longer was the sacred threshold of pure dominance it once was. Great pitchers reached it: Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber. So did pitchers with warts, like Yu Darvish and Robbie Ray and Chris Archer. In all, 30 times starters have finished a season with more than 11 K/9.
In 2018, 14 starters are there. And while that number will erode, the record of five last year is likely to fall. Perhaps nothing shows what has happened in baseball over the last decade better than starting pitchers’ average K/9. In 2008, it was 6.45. Today, it’s 8.47. Which means it’s no longer just …
7. Max Scherzer and those of his ilk who strike out armies’ worth. Corbin is exceeding his previous best K/9 by more than 50 percent. Ray’s 13.29 K/9 would be second all-time for a starter, behind Randy Johnson’s Cy Young-winning 2001 season.
Scherzer, in the meantime, keeps humming along, punching out 12.82 per nine, not even walking two, yielding hits with the parsimony of a perfectionist. He is the embodiment of baseball today: he throws hard, he’s brilliant and he craves punchouts. Every week, it seems, he finds his way into 10 Degrees. Writing about virtuosity never gets tiresome.
He is the closest thing in baseball to a pitching metronome. For a long time, the same could be said for …
8. J.A. Happ, too. He was the archetypal average left-handed starter who was going to throw something like 160 to 180 OK innings. He was a guy you wanted on your team. He wasn’t the guy for whom anyone would trade the farm – or even a sliver of the farm.
So to see Happ – 92-mph-throwing J.A. Happ, the guy who throws fastballs more than 70 percent of the time in an era where increased breaking balls usage has helped spike the strikeout rate – suddenly striking out 12.68 per nine is … well, it’s like seeing Charlie Morton at 10.88 or Lance Lynn and Dylan Bundy and Sean Newcomb on the list of those over 11. Of the 95 most-used starting pitchers this season, 37 have a K/9 of at least 9.00. Kershaw’s is 9.55, and he’s 30th among his peers.
Happ has made a few adjustment. He’s elevating his fastball against right-handed hitters, as FanGraphs noted. And, yes, high fastballs have proven difficult to hit. Even so, seeing someone like Happ morph into a strikeout pitcher is as alarming as seeing the K/9 certain …
9. Relief pitchers are carrying these days. From Aroldis Chapman (18.00) to Josh Hader (17.80), to Sean Doolittle (17.10), to Adam Ottavino (17.05), to Carl Edwards Jr. (16.88), to Edwin Diaz (16.55), the best relief pitchers are recording two-thirds of their outs via strikeout. Of the 199 relievers qualified on FanGraphs, 116 have strikeout-per-nine rates of above nine.
The average reliever is at 9.29 K/9. Five years ago, that number was 8.29, and 10 years ago, it was 7.5, and it’s part of what the anti-strikeout bloc’s deepest fears: That the lack of action is making the game boring, and nothing exemplifies that quite like the end of games, where relievers possess shutdown stuff and eviscerate hitters on the regular. It’s a reasonable argument. Especially in the era of the eight-man bullpen, where managers mix and max, using pitchers for one out to get the platoon advantage and turning the last three (or four … or five) innings into a slog of pitching changes and strikeouts.
MLB doesn’t seem altogether distressed. Certainly not enough to do anything in the near term about it. The league fears unintended consequences. At the same time, the consequence of watching baseball change over the last decade is that …
10. Yoenis Cespedes is striking out 41.6 percent of the time and the best he can offer is that … he’s not golfing enough. This is obviously very comforting to the Mets in the second season of a four-year, $110 million deal.
The truth is, Cespedes won’t be this bad, because the likelihood of someone with his talent doubling his strikeout rate over the course of an entire season would take an erosion of skill so severe it would be an outlier. Guys like Stanton, Matt Olson, Yoan Moncada – big-strikeout sorts who are simply living down to their reputations – can flirt with 40 percent and make sense.
That doesn’t exactly help Cespedes or the Mets. The pox of baseball has infected him, and no immediate cure exists. There’s optimism that it rids itself, hope that it goes away and never comes back, but then it’s not like the Mets don’t enjoy strikeouts themselves. Their pitching staff is averaging 10.35 per nine, behind only the Astros (10.93), Nationals (10.60) and Yankees (10.59).
The game is the game, as a wise man once said, and in baseball, in 2018, the game is strikeouts. There are ebbs and flows, fits and starts, different incarnations for different time periods, but do not mistake this for anything other than what it is: a confluence of pitchers valuing something, hitters inuring themselves to it and the game changing. When baseball history is written, this will be known as the Strikeout Era, a moniker it has more than earned.
The Yankees expect to lose first baseman Tyler Austin to a suspension this week for his involvement in a brawl with the Red Sox on April 11. Austin, who charged the mound after being hit by a pitch from Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly, was handed a five-game suspension and had an appeal hearing Thursday.
MLB could possibly announce a decision as early as Monday.
“We do anticipate a decision this week, when that is I don’t know. Hopefully it gets knocked down a little bit,’’ manager Aaron Boone said following Sunday’s 5-1 win over the Blue Jays. “It’s never a good time to be playing short and not necessarily looking forward to that. We know it’s coming and will do the best we can.’’
Austin has 11 hits in his last 28 at-bats (.478) after going 1-for-3 with a walk Sunday. Losing his bat will hurt a lineup that the ice-cold Neil Walker will likely join at first base when Austin serves his sentence. Walker has started 10 games at first and four at second this season.
Since Gleyber Torres was promoted from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday to play second, Walker was asked about the move that could reduce his playing time at second base.
“He has earned the right to come up here. I’m not even hitting my weight. I know I’m gonna pick it up, but we got to win games,’’ said the switch-hitter, who is batting .183 (11-for-60) with just two extra-base hits (doubles). “My timing hasn’t been great. I’ve been searching a little bit, in between at the plate. Once I get my swing off better, I’ll be off to the races. It just hasn’t happened yet. I haven’t thought about it. Doing all I can to right my situation. I’m here to help any way I can. These guys the earned right to play.’’
Austin signaled to the Yankees dugout to take a look at a play at first base in the eighth inning on a ground ball to short on which he was called out. The Yankees challenged the call and when the play was shown on the center-field replay board, the crowd booed the call made by first-base umpire and crew chief Ted Barrett. Subsequent replays drew the same reaction.
However, following a review, the word from MLB was that first baseman Justin Smoak had a sliver of his spike on the bag with the ball in his glove.
“There was a shot a split second earlier where it was kind of borderline whether they were going to overturn it,’’ Boone said. “It was one of those if he is called safe he is probably safe. If he is called out, I haven’t looked at all the replays yet, but that is my understanding of it.’’
By using Gary Sanchez as the DH, Boone had eight right-handed hitters in the lineup against Blue Jays lefty Jaime Garcia on Sunday.
Boone’s original plan was for Sanchez to catch Friday night and Saturday day and DH Sanchez on Sunday. However, Friday night’s game lasted three hours and 22 minutes, so Boone used Austin Romine on Saturday and paired him with Luis Severino on Sunday.
Sanchez started the game in a 2-for-13 slide and went 1-for-3 with a double. Romine delivered a two-run double in the second when the Yankees extended their lead to 3-0.
There is a chance Clint Frazier could play in Single-A games for Tampa this coming week.
“I think he has finally passed all of the concussion protocols and MLB has to sign off on it,’’ Boone said of the outfielder who suffered a concussion banging his head against a fence on Feb. 24 in a spring training game. “There is a chance he could be playing in games with Tampa [Monday] or Tuesday.
NEW YORK — It was a different type of weekend for Brian Dozier and Gleyber Torres.
While Dozier continued his hot start by getting a hit in his 16th straight game, the Minnesota Twins wound up with a frustrating three-game sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Meanwhile, Torres found out Saturday afternoon he was headed to the majors and made his debut Sunday as the New York Yankees capped a solid weekend by taking three of four from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Dozier will try to keep his streak alive while Torres will appear in his second major league game with the Yankees in the opener of a four-game series Monday night at Yankee Stadium.
Dozier owns the longest active streak in baseball and broke the Minnesota record (since 1961) set by Josh Willingham (2012) and Kirby Puckett (1994) for the longest streak to start a season when he went 2-for-5 with two RBIs.
“He has just been steady,” Twins manager Paul Molitor told reporters. “He’s not giving away any at-bats. We don’t have a lot of guys swinging the bat that well, but he is doing the job.”
Dozier’s latest hits, however, occurred during an 8-6 loss decided when Addison Reed allowed a two-run game-winning homer to Carlos Gomez in the ninth inning.
While Dozier is hitting .310 (22-for-71) this season and owns a 23-game hitting streak dating back to Sept. 22, the Twins are only 8-8. They have lost four of five with two walk-off losses and the one win coming in the 15th inning on Wednesday in Puerto Rico.
“We’re heading into a tough environment to play for four days,” Molitor told reporters. “I think we’ve got enough leadership in there that we’ll bounce back. Hopefully we can keep scoring.”
Molitor is hoping to avoid things like getting outscored 26-14 and seeing his relievers allowed 15 runs and 20 hits in 10 innings.
Torres, who is New York’s top prospect, joined the Yankees for Sunday’s 5-1 win. He received a standing ovation before his first at-bat and was 0-for-4.
“There’s a lot going on, but it’s very precise,” said Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who also compared Torres to Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez. “He’s got some cool action in there and there’s some pop at the end. He’s going to be good, man. He is good already.”
Torres joined the Yankee system as the centerpiece of the 2016 trade that sent current closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs. He underwent Tommy John surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his left (nonthrowing) elbow last June but recovered quickly and was batting .347 with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre before getting the call to join the Yankees.
Torres can play every infield position but first base and will be the second baseman for the foreseeable future, especially with third baseman Miguel Andujar’s recent showings. Andujar went 4-for-4 Sunday and is hitting .542 (13-for-24) with 10 extra-base hits and seven RBIs in his last six games.
“We feel like he’s a legitimate defender at all three spots,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone, whose second baseman combined for a .601 OPS before Torres joined the team. “Generally speaking, the plan (right now) is for him to be a second baseman.”
New York’s Masahiro Tanaka will attempt to rebound from a pair of shaky starts against the Boston Red Sox and Miami Marlins. Tanaka has allowed 12 earned runs on 15 hits spanning 10 innings in his last two starts.
Tanaka allowed 35 homers last season and has allowed at least one homer in four straight starts. The only time he allowed at least one homer in five straight outings occurred during his rookie season from June 5-28, 2014.
Tanaka is 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA against the Twins, who have yet to homer off him in 29 innings. Despite his success against Minnesota, Dozier (5-for-14) and Eduardo Escobar (6-for-13) have done well off the right-hander.
Jake Odorizzi will make his fifth start for the Twins and is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. He also is coming off his worst outing of the season when he allowed four runs and six hits in five innings in Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Puerto Rico.
Odorizzi owns plenty of experience against the Yankees from spending the previous five seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. He is 5-7 with a 4.31 ERA in 14 appearances (13 starts) against the Yankees.
Didi Gregorius homered, No. 9 batter Austin Romine laced a two-run double and rookie Miguel Andujar had a career-high four hits, including an RBI double, to help the Yankees take three of four in the series from their AL East rivals.
Torres stranded six runners, striking out, grounding into a double play, popping out and flying out. Torres played second base and batted eighth in a Yankees lineup that didn’t include a player 30 or older for the first time since Sept. 29, 1989, according to STATS.
With veteran left fielder Brett Gardner receiving a rest, the eldest starter on the field was Romine, the team’s 29-year-old backup catcher.
Teoscar Hernandez homered in the sixth off Severino (4-1), who struck out six and walked two. The ace right-hander won for only the second time in nine outings against Toronto.
David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman each worked a scoreless inning of relief to finish the four-hitter.
Jaime Garcia (2-1) gave up four runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays (13-8), who lost consecutive games for the first time since opening the season with two home losses to the Yankees. Toronto had won its last five following a defeat.
It was Garcia’s first start against New York. The lefty made eight starts for the Yankees down the stretch last season, going 0-3 with a 4.82 ERA.
Gregorius hit a solo home run in the first inning. He added a sacrifice fly in the seventh after Aaron Hicks stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Russell Martin.
Romine’s two-run double came with two outs in the second after Torres struck out with two runners in scoring position.
Andujar drove home a run in the sixth with his second double, giving him 10 extra-base hits in his last six games. He also had two infield singles and finished 4 for 4 to raise his average to .308.
Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis was back in the lineup. He missing the previous two games after fouling a ball off his left foot Thursday night in the series opener. … SS Aledmys Diaz was rested in favor of rookie Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Yankees: Hicks banged hard into the center-field wall trying to make a running, leaping catch of Justin Smoak’s leadoff double in the fourth. Hicks was briefly shaken up after tumbling to the turf, but stayed in the game.
Blue Jays: Following an off day, LHP J.A. Happ (3-1, 4.50 ERA) starts Tuesday night at home against Boston RHP Rick Porcello (4-0, 1.40).
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (2-2, 6.45) pitches Monday night on five days’ rest in the opener of a four-game series against visiting Minnesota. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA in four career starts vs. the Twins, but is coming off a pair of rough outings against Boston and Miami.
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NEW YORK — In the last two weeks, the New York Yankees have made it above .500 only to fall back to the break-even point again.
The Yankees are 10-9 heading into the finale of a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday and they will attempt to exit Yankee Stadium with a winning record.
New York is one game above .500 after Aaron Judge hit his sixth homer of the season and drove in three runs during Saturday’s 9-1 rout. It is the third time the Yankees have gotten one game over in the last two weeks.
Miguel Andujar went 2-for-4 with a bases-clearing double. During Andujar’s last five games, he is hitting .450 (9-for-20) with two homers and six RBIs.
“There’s been a lot of communication between me and the hitting coaches,” Andujar said through an interpreter. “They told me I was a little too anxious, so I’m going out there a little more relaxed. That’s what I feel. I just feel more relaxed. That’s helping me a lot right now.”
The follow-up to getting one game over has not gone well for the Yankees so far.
New York was 5-4 after an 8-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on April 7 and then took nearly five hours to drop an 8-7 decision in 12 innings the following day. The Yankees made it to 8-7 after beating the Miami Marlins 12-1 on Monday only to put on a putrid showing in a 9-1 defeat on Tuesday.
“It’s just about little by little getting better every single day,” Judge said. “You’re not going to try to make big strides every single day. It’s like laying a brick down when you’re building a house. You lay one brick down at a time and just try to do that every day.”
The Yankees may try to get better with Gleyber Torres. The highly touted infielder was pulled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s game on Saturday and reportedly is slated to join the team on Sunday.
The Blue Jays have not dropped consecutive games since losing its first two games to the Yankees. Toronto is coming off its most lopsided loss and allowed more than six runs for the first time this season.
Toronto went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, mustered four hits and was 2-for-11 with men on base.
“We had some guys on base, we just couldn’t cash in at all,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons, whose team has won nine of 12. “We’ve been getting guys on base really this whole series.”
Gibbons’ comment is correct.
In the first three games, the Blue Jays are 7-for-32 (.219) with runners in scoring position and 10-for-49 (.204) with men on base.
Steve Pearce drove in the only run while playing first base as Justin Smoak received the day off. Smoak, who was 7-for-15 in the first series against the Yankees, has three hits in his last 31 at-bats in his last eight games.
Luis Severino has encountered difficulties against Toronto at times and hopes to begin reversing that trend. While he is a combined 10-2 against Tampa Bay and Baltimore, he is 3-8 against Toronto and Boston.
In eight career games against Toronto, Severino is 1-3 with a 4.66 ERA. In three home appearances (two starts) against Toronto, he is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA.
Smoak is the Blue Jays hitter to give Severino the most trouble by going 5-for-14 (.357) with two homers and five RBIs and a 1.256 OPS.
Severino is coming off a particularly strong outing after it was believed he was tipping his pitches in an ugly outing on April 10 in Boston. In Monday’s 12-1 win over the Miami Marlins, he allowed one hit in six scoreless innings, becoming the first Yankees pitcher to post two scoreless outings in New York’s first 15 games since current broadcaster David Cone in 1997.
Jaime Garcia is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in his first three starts for Toronto, who signed him as a free agent on Feb. 15. He last pitched in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals when he allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings of an 11-3 win.
Garcia was 0-3 with a 4.82 ERA in eight starts for the Yankees last season, but he is making his first career start against New York. Although he is pitching against the Yankees for the first time, he has not fared well in matchups with Stanton and Neil Walker.
Stanton is 7-for-12 (.583) with three homers and six RBIs against Garcia. Walker is 4-for-10.
So far, Garcia is producing a fly-ball rate of 43.9 percent, up from 26.6 percent last season.
Nearly seven months have passed since the Twins last set foot in Yankee Stadium, and it sometimes seems like they’re still processing their feelings about that night.
“It’s an unhappy memory, but it still represented something important, and we can’t forget that,” Brian Dozier said last month about the Twins’ 8-4 loss to the Yankees in the 2017 AL wild-card game. “It still hurts that we lost, especially after jumping on them [with three first-inning runs] like we did. It’s just one game, though. It would have been nice, it would have been fantastic, to win it, but that doesn’t diminish what we accomplished” by qualifying for their first playoff appearance in seven years.
“The opportunity that game provides is the real reward for a season of hard work, and it’s up to you to take advantage of it,” manager Paul Molitor said. “Advancing further would have augmented that reward. As we head into this season, it’s the next step.”