By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
When Morneau came to the plate in the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs, runners on second and third, and the Twins trailing by a run, most of the 42,316 people in the Metrodome had to believe the game was over. The man on the mound, Mariano Rivera, had been the most reliable closer in baseball for close to a decade—maybe the best ever. Sure, he'd let Luis Castillo and Joe Mauer get to second and third with nobody out. But then he came right back and fanned Rondell White and Torii Hunter, causing the Metrodome crowd to erupt in groans. They groaned again when they saw Mr. Disappointment of 2005 heading to the plate. First base was open, but the Yanks showed no inclination to walk the unproven Morneau. And then the unthinkable happened: On the first pitch from Rivera, he squirted a broken-bat single through the infield to score two runs and end the game.
2. TWINS SWEEP THE WHITE SOX IN CHICAGO
Through their first five road trips of the season, the Twins crawled to a 10-26 record punctuated by series sweeps at the hands of Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit (twice). And though the team was vastly improved by the time late July rolled around, it was still under duress to prove it could win consistently in other people's ballparks. By the time this three-game set at U.S. Cellular field was done, the Twins had won 12 of their last 13 games, outscoring opponents 76-47 over that span. The series win also moved them into a tie with the White Sox for second in the Wild Card race. Sox fans took a hard look at the situation and began to boo their own players.
1. THEY WEREN'T DEAD, THEY WERE ONLY SLEEPING
Barring some historic turn in the seventh game of the World Series, this 12-inning-comeback game versus the Boston Red Sox will go down as the best game of 2006. Also the most symbolically charged, since it's the date most people use to demarcate the team's big turnaround: 28-34 up to June 13, they proceeded to go 58-26 from then to September 14. The game was a pitching duel for the ages, with Santana squaring off against former World Series hero Curt Schilling. True to form, Santana had started off the season slowly. But on this night he struck out the first five batters he saw on his way to 13 K's in eight innings, including his 1,000th career punchout (of David Ortiz). But the first nine innings were only prelude to the real drama: In the bottom of the 12th, with the Twins down 2-1, the bases loaded, one out, and the count full, rookie Jason Kubel knocked his first career grand slam just over the baggy in right field to hand Minnesota the game 5-2. Kubel would eventually cool off; the Twins would not.