Royce Lewis smashed home runs in his first two playoff opportunities and the Minnesota Twins snapped the longest post-season win drought by games in American sport history, defeating Toronto 3-1 on Tuesday in a Major League Baseball series opener.
The Twins had lost 18 consecutive playoff contests, the most in any major North American sports league, since beating the New York Yankees in the first game of the 2004 American League division series.
They were also swept out of the MLB playoffs in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2017, 2019 and 2020.
Minnesota’s victory ended the epic post-season futility run and gave the host Twins a 1-0 lead in the American League best-of-three first round series, which continues on Wednesday.
“It means a lot,” Lewis said of snapping the historic drought. “And it means a lot that the fans encouraged us and they had that energy for us. They brought it and we brought it for them.”
Also winning their AL playoff opener were the Texas Rangers, who blanked host Tampa Bay 4-0 as US pitcher Jordan Montgomery struck out six without allowing a walk over seven innings.
In National League openers, Arizona won 6-3 at Milwaukee and host Philadelphia beat Miami 4-1.
Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles and defending champion Houston received first-round byes.
Minnesota’s Lewis, the 2017 MLB Draft top pick, blasted a two-run homer in the first inning and a solo homer in the third off Toronto starter Kevin Gausman.
The 24-year-old US third baseman, who recovered from a sore hamstring just in time for the playoffs, matched Gary Gaetti from 1987 as the only Twins with two homers in a playoff game.
Toronto pulled within 3-1 in the sixth when Bo Bichette singled, advanced on a walk and scored on Kevin Kiermaier’s single.
But Twins outfielder Michael Taylor leaped above the outfield wall to deny Toronto’s Matt Chapman a three-run homer that would have put the Blue Jays ahead, and Minnesota reliever Jhoan Duran got the last outs in the ninth for the triumph.
‘He had everything’
At Tampa Bay, left-hander Montgomery scattered six hits to baffle Rays batters in the fourth scoreless outing from his past five starts.
“I think he had everything,” said Texas slugger Corey Seager, who had two hits, scoring one run and driving in another.
“He had them off balance. He was just really impressive to be able to come out here and shut that lineup down at home.”
It was the first shutout playoff victory since 2011 for the Rangers.
At Milwaukee, Carlos Santana singled in a first-inning run and Tyrone Taylor hit a two-run homer in the second for a 3-0 Brewers lead.
But Arizona’s Corbin Carroll smacked a two-run homer, Ketel Marte added a solo homer in the third and Gabriel Moreno’s solo homer in the fourth put the Diamondbacks ahead 4-3.
Milwaukee appeared to pull level in the fifth when Brice Turang was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded but video review overturned the call and Evan Longoria’s lunging catch began a double play that ended the threat.
Christian Walker’s two-out double in the ninth drove in two more runs for the final margin as six D-backs relief pitchers blanked Milwaukee in the final 6 1/3 innings.
“Big win for us,” Carroll said. “The bullpen really held it down for a long time. Offense had some huge hits.”
The host Phillies, who lost last year’s World Series to Houston, took the lead in the third when Johan Rojas singled and scored on Alec Bohm’s two-out double.
Philadelphia boosted the lead in the fourth on run-scoring singles by Bryson Stott and Cristian Pache.
Miami’s Bryan De La Cruz singled in a run in the seventh, but the Phillies answered in the eighth when Bryce Harper singled and scored on a Nick Castellanos double for a 4-1 edge.
Philadelphia’s Craig Kimbrel entered in the ninth and got the final outs for the victory.
The Marlins were in their first playoff game in front of spectators since 2003, Miami’s only postseason appearance since coming in the Covid-19 lockdown 2020 campaign.
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