Skip to main content

Brian Murphy: October should no longer be dreaded but anticipated

There is much to admire and be optimistic about with the Twins.

As Irish wakes for a baseball season go, Skinner’s in St. Paul was an ideal choice to pour one out one last time for the 2023 Minnesota Twins.

Cheap drinks, tasty appetizers and ample elbow room to gesticulate wildly every time a Twins hitter flailed away at strike three or stood there like a statue when it sailed through a fungible K zone.

Disappointment was raw when Max Kepler was rung up shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday and those clutch villains from Houston celebrated yet another trip to the American League championship series at crestfallen Target Field.

Compromised resignation was the prevailing mood at this West Seventh watering hole.

“Swing the %#&@+*$ bat, Kepler!”

“That was a %#&@+*$ foot outside, blue!”

There was no other reckoning for Minnesota’s season of redemption.

The team that struck out an eye-bleeding 1,654 times during the regular season whiffed 73 more times in six playoff games. Malfeasance that culminated in former Twins closer Ryan Pressly snuffing all three hitters he faced in the ninth, leaving Kepler to gripe about a borderline pitch he never should have taken with the season on the line.

It stands in sharp contrast to Houston’s lineup, which is like the zombies in “World War Z.” Relentless and ravenous. It just never ends.

Target Field, MLB playoffs

All the Twins could muster respectively were three measly hits in their Games 3 and 4 losses to the Astros. Someone admonish Bob Uecker before Harry Doyle takes the Lord’s name in vain again on the air.

The lack of productive and professional at bats was painful to watch as the battle-tested and bemused Astros kept throwing wet blankets over Twins hitters and their fans inning after unfulfilling inning.

Waiting for Royce Lewis to hit a three-run home run or trying to catch lightning in a bottle with a rusty, rickety Byron Buxton is no way to string together the rallies Minnesota desperately needed to stay relevant in a division series that simply got away from them.

U-turning from the batter’s box to the dugout without putting balls in play is untenable, even in this exit-velocity era of busting open innings with the long ball. Putting pressure on pitchers and defenders is how you extend innings and sustain momentum, especially in the postseason hot house.

A more disciplined approach can work together with the lessons these young hitters gained by playing on the October stage. The emptiness the Twins’ lineup will feel all winter can be constructive and motivating when the club reconvenes in four months in Fort Myers, Fla.

Because there is much to admire and be optimistic about. Consider the core improvements that were realized over the course of a haphazard regular season Minnesota salvaged with a ferocious second half steamroll of the hapless American League Central.

Pablo Lopez is more than an ace with a devastating repertoire. He’s an alpha dog whose preparation and presence make opponents and fans take notice whenever he starts.

The bullpen jelled and coalesced around defined and diverse roles that fortify the entire staff. The Twins no longer must sift through the bargain bins and jerry-rig spare parts to survive.

Reduce the strikeouts and the Twins will deliver more with runners on base. Because what’s not to like about this lineup?

Rookie Edouard Julien has been a revelation with his pop at the plate and nervy integration into the big leagues.

Carlos Correa earned every penny of his $200 million third-choice contract with his defensive prowess, leadership and resurrection at the plate during the postseason.

Jorge Polanco is an old-guard pro who provides value with his versatility and potency in big moments.

Matt Wallner, Michael Taylor, Donavan Solano and Ryan Jeffers knitted themselves into a formidable crew of role players who contributed at just the right times offensively and defensively.

And what else can you say about Lewis? Four home runs in six postseason games with an infectious smile and style that makes this Lewis’s town right now.

Justin Jefferson, Kirill Kaprizov, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards … they’re all on the homecoming float, but Royce wears the crown.

Yes, it was a disappointing conclusion to a season that left re-birthed Twins fans craving more autumn fun. But there were tangible results and intangible vibes that point toward a prolonged stretch of success and tantalizing possibilities.

The Twins slayed their postseason dragons. Finally. They are an exciting and ascending club with Lewis carrying the flag for a new generation.

October should no longer be dreaded but anticipated.

Toast to that.