Thursday, February 2, 2012

From Reardon to Guardado: Twins pitchers who clinched a postseason series

A blog I follow called Sully Baseball has been posting an interesting series on the pitchers who were on the mound to record the final out for a specific team in postseason play. The first part of his series looked at the Boston Red Sox and their storied history. His newest edition examined the Philadelphia Phillies franchise and their postseason success. Both of these teams have a history that stretches back to the early years of the game so their postseason clinching moments are spread out through the history of baseball.

The Twins are in a little bit different circumstance when it comes to their history. When the Twins moved to Minnesota in 1961, the Senators franchise had only won a single postseason series in their history. The 1924 World Series was won by the Senators on a Game 7 walk-off hit in extra-innings by Earl McNeely. Walter Johnson would get the win in that game as a relief pitcher and it would be a long stretch of time before the Twins would clinch another playoff series.

One of the most famous clinching games in franchise history also came on a walk-off hit in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Gene Larkin would single in Dan Gladden to end the extra-inning affair but this meant that Jack Morris was not on the mound to record the final out. His performance was one of the best in the history of the Fall Classic but he doesn't qualify for this list since he didn't stand on the mound to record the final out.

Here are the pitchers, the game they pitched, and how the last out was recorded.

Eddie Guardado
2002 American League Division Series-Game 5
Twins 5, Athletics 4
October 6, 2002 at the Oakland Coliseum, Oakland
One inning of relief in support of winning pitcher Brad Radke and following relief pitchers J.C. Romero and LaTroy Hawkins
Last Out: Ray Durham foul flyball caught by Denny Hocking

Rick Aguilera
1991 American League Championship Series-Game 5
Twins 8, Blue Jays 5
October 13, 1991 at the SkyDome, Toronto
One inning of relief after a rough start from Kevin Tapani and following relief efforts from David West and Carl Willis.
Last Out: Roberto Alomar flyball to left field caught by Dan Gladden

Jeff Reardon
1987 World Series-Game 7
Twins 4, Cardinals 2
October 25, 1987 at the H.H.H. Metrodome, Minneapolis
One inning of relief in support of eight strong innings from Frank Viola for the save.
Last Out: Willie McGee grounded out from Gary Gaetti to Kent Hrbek.

Jeff Reardon
1987 American League Championship Series-Game 5
Twins 9, Tigers 5
October 12, 1987 at Tiger Stadium, Detroit
One and one third innings for the save in support of Bert Blyleven and following Dan Schatzeder and Juan Berenguer's relief outings.
Last Out: Matt Nokes grounded out to Reardon who tossed it to Kent Hrbek at first.

All of the men who made this list are among some of the best closers in the history of the Twins franchise. Reardon ranks fifth on the Twins all-time save list, Guardado is third, and Joe Nathan passed Aguilera last season for the most saves in franchise history. Even with Nathan reaching the most saves in the history of the Twins, he was never able to stand on the mound to record the last out of a playoff series.

Having a good closer at the back end of the bullpen has been a staple for the successful Twins teams in recent memory. Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire have been able to turn to a solid relief option and they have found success in the regular season. All of that regular season success for the team hasn't transferred over to the postseason but the closers didn't always have something to do with that problem.

The Twins will hope to add to this list in 2012 with Matt Capps, Glen Perkins, or Joel Zumaya standing on the mound to record the final out of a postseason series. That dream is over 162 games away but it is still nice to have the hope of a new year.

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