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Twins end historic losing streak: Pablo López channels Johan Santana as team wins first playoff game since ’04

Tuesday afternoon Pablo López did something no Minnesota Twins pitcher had accomplished since 2004: he won a postseason game. The Twins snapped their 18-game postseason losing streak in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the Toronto Blue Jays (MIN 3, TOR 1). It was their first postseason win since Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS against the New York Yankees at the old Yankee Stadium. Johan Santana outdueled Mike Mussina that night.
López — who entered the stadium wearing a Santana jersey — held the Blue Jays to one run in 5 2/3 innings and he got plenty of help from Royce Lewis. The No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft swatted a two-run homer in the first inning and a solo homer in the third inning. He’s only the third player to go deep in his first two career postseason at-bats. Minnesota took the lead three batters into the game and never looked back.
Minnesota’s 18-game winning streak was historic. It was not just the longest postseason losing streak in baseball history. It was the longest such streak in the history of the four major North American pro sports leagues. Here’s the list now that the streak is over:
Minnesota Twins: 18 games (2004-2020) Chicago Blackhawks: 16 games (1975-79) Detroit Pistons: 14 games and counting (2008 to present) Los Angeles Kings: 14 games (1993-2001) Several teams tied at 13 games
Assuming the Twins had a 50/50 chance of winning each game (not realistic, but humor me), the odds of losing 18 consecutive games are 0.00038147%, or one in 262,144. This losing streak has spanned multiple generations of players, multiple managers, multiple front offices, and even multiple home ballparks. The Twins are now 1-5 all-time at Target Field in the postseason.
“We’ve had three managers now be a part of this streak, and how many dozens of players? Probably hundreds of players,” one fan told MLB.com recently. “And they’re not necessarily the ones who, like, were the streak when they added on their couple of games to it. But it really is a streak of the fans who have been here for closing in on two full decades of it.”
In case you or that fan are wondering, 99 different players appeared in a postseason game for the Twins during the losing streak, led by Michael Cuddyer’s 13. Joe Mauer is the only other player in double digits. He played in 10 of the 18 losses. Here are Minnesota’s postseason results from 2004-20, which covered the 18 straight losses:
Season Regular season Postseason 2004 92-70 (won AL Central) Lost ALDS 3-1 vs. Yankees 2006 96-66 (won AL Central) Lost ALDS 3-0 vs. Athletics 2009 87-76 (won AL Central) Lost ALDS 3-0 to Yankees 2010 94-68 (won AL Central) Lost ALDS 3-0 to Yankees 2017 85-77 (second wild-card) Lost Wild Card Game to Yankees 2019 101-61 (won AL Central) Lost ALDS 3-0 to Yankees 2020 36-24 (won AL Central) Lost Wild Card Series 2-0 to Astros
I’m not sure anything would have been sweeter than beating the Yankees to end the losing streak, but it was not meant to be. The Yankees finished in fourth place and didn’t make the expanded 12-team postseason field. Then again, I doubt the Twins and their fans cared who the Twins beat to end the losing streak. They just wanted that postseason win, and they got it Tuesday.
There were remarkably few close calls during the streak. Only four of the 18 losses were by one run — the average margin of defeat was 3.2 runs — and only twice did the Twins have a lead in the ninth inning or later. Joe Nathan blew the save and allowed a walk-off sac fly to Hideki Matsui in the Game 2 in 2004, and Nathan surrendered a game-tying two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 2 in 2009. Minnesota lost that game on Mark Teixeira’s walk-off homer in the 11th.
I’m not a believer in jinxes or curse or anything like that. Nothing that happened in 2004 or 2010 or last week has any bearing on what happens next. That said, the Twins got asked about the losing streak every October. It was tiresome and it’s the kind of thing that can creep into the back of your mind once you fall behind, even by one run. They don’t have to worry about that any longer. Now that the monkey is off their back, don’t be surprised if the Twins go on a run.
“Nothing is more important than winning tomorrow,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said Monday (per The Athletic).

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