Twins' heads held high after historic season

Despite Wild Card loss to Yanks, turnaround from '16 to '17 highlights year

Twins' heads held high after historic season

NEW YORK -- It was an unforgettable, fun and historic season that saw the Twins become the first team to go from losing more than 100 games one year to making the postseason the next year. But it ended with a familiar result against the Yankees.

Minnesota built early momentum with a three-run lead in the first, but it wasn't enough in an 8-4 loss at Yankee Stadium that dropped the Twins to 2-13 all-time against New York in postseason play. But in the visiting clubhouse, there was no sulking, as the players were in good spirits and took turns going around the clubhouse hugging each other.

Date Score Highlights
Oct. 3 NYY 8, MIN 4 Watch

"We're definitely proud of what we were able to do," said catcher Jason Castro. "That's the message we're trying to put out -- to remember what we accomplished this year and the strides we took from last year to this year."

It was the first postseason appearance for the Twins since 2010, and while it ended with a bitter taste, it was an impressive run for a club that wasn't expected to contend after losing a Major League-worst 103 games in '16. But Minnesota improved its win total by a franchise-record 26 games, buoyed by a combination of a young core and veteran leaders.

"We're trying to be optimistic and hold our heads high," second baseman Brian Dozier said. "Are we satisfied? Absolutely not. But I'm so proud of these guys and the way we battled. It's unbelievable."

Dozier, Rosario homer in the 1st

The Twins were a resilient team, especially in August, bouncing back from being sellers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline to post a 20-10 record and leapfrog ahead of six clubs to put themselves in the driver's seat for the second AL Wild Card spot in September.

Much of their second-half surge came because of the development of their young players such as Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Jose Berrios, Trevor Hildenberger and Alan Busenitz. And they did much of it without Miguel Sano, who suffered a shin injury in mid-August from which he still has not recovered.

Twins look to build on success

"It's awesome to see the guys make strides from the 2016 season to this season," Hildenberger said. "We had the experience of playing in meaningful games in September. We came here to a tough environment and got a lead early. We can definitely learn from that."

With no notable free agents outside of veteran closer Matt Belisle, much of the club will look the same in 2018, especially among position players. But Minnesota will look to acquire more pitching depth in the offseason, especially in the bullpen.

Molitor on loss, game outcome

And unlike previous seasons, the Twins will head into next year as legitimate postseason contenders, and their experience this year will only help them going forward.

"Could you always use a couple more pieces? Absolutely," Dozier said. "But collectively, as a group, we have something special here, and not just for the next couple years, but a long time."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.