A season that for so long looked ticketed for the postseason will officially end without a division title for the Minnesota Twins.
Though they led the American League Central for most of the season, a dismal September has sealed their fate. The Twins were officially eliminated from the division race — they have not yet officially been eliminated from the wild card race, though that should come within the next couple of days — on Friday night with a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels and the Cleveland Guardians’ 6-3 win over Texas.
The Twins pulled into a tie atop the division on Sept. 4 with Cleveland, but with an injury-depleted roster, have been spiraling ever since. Friday marked their fifth straight loss.
“There’s an easy explanation: we didn’t play good enough,” shortstop Carlos Correa said.
Not even close.
But Friday at least offered some glimpses of hope for the future and a reason to smile for the local fans: Maplewood’s Louie Varland and Forest Lake’s Matt Wallner, who went 0 for 3 on Friday, each made their Target Field debut.
Varland, in his third career start, was tagged for solo home runs by Taylor Ward in the second and sixth innings. He also allowed a run-scoring single to Angels star Mike Trout during his 5 2/3 innings.
Varland, who was pulled one out short of recording a quality start, walked off the Target Field mound to a chorus of “Lous,” from an appreciative hometown crowd after manager Rocco Baldelli took the ball from him.
The rookie squared off against two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, who did not allow a hit until the fifth inning. Ohtani had control issues throughout the night, walking six batters, but the Twins weren’t able to fully make him pay.
Ohtani walked a pair of batters and hit one in the first inning, but the Twins came away with just one run from that, which scored on a double play. In the sixth, he walked two and allowed two singles — one an RBI single to Jake Cave — before reliever Aaron Loup entered and extracted himself from the jam.
Ohtani’s seventh-inning single brought in the Angels’ fourth run of the night.