Molitor on Twins - Jays series: 'I wouldn't mind seeing a Game 3'
After the Minnesota Twins broke their historic playoff losing streak by beating the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, Twins special assistant Paul Molitor joined TSN1050 on Wednesday to discuss the Wild Card series matchup, the performance of Twins rookies this season and more.
Molitor spent 21 seasons in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays and the Twins and spent four years as the Twins manager from 2015-18.
The Twins entered this series against Toronto having lost 18-straight playoff games since 2004 - including five three-game series sweeps. Molitor managed the team to one playoff appearance, a Wild Card game loss to the New York Yankees in 2017.
"There was a big sigh of relief in the stadium, it was great to see in nearly a full house," said Molitor on Wednesday. "The Twins, almost unfathomably, lost 18 straight games in the postseason. You couldn't even imagine that could happen."
The Twins broke their streak with a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jays, powered by two home runs from rookie Royce Lewis.
"If it wasn't for Royce Lewis and his heroics in his first postseason game, who knows what the outcome might have been?" said Molitor.
Molitor notices similarities between the two squads in terms of roster construction, but said the teams are at different points in their timeline. The Blue Jays significantly altered their franchise when they called up Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio in the 2019 season. That core of young players has helped carry the team into the postseason multiple times, but the Twins have gotten their boost from a wave of young talent just entering the league this season.
"Toronto is certainly familiar with bringing up a young crop of players and having them blossom and mature into major league players, which is exciting," said Molitor. "For the Twins this year, we counted on people like Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and a lot of these guys either were hurt or didn't have overly productive years.
"Lo and behold, you get young guys stepping up like Lewis, Edouard Julien, our French Canadian from Quebec City, and Matt Wallner, people like that," he said.
Molitor is looking forward to the pitching matchup in Game 2, where the Twins will start Sonny Gray opposite Jose Berrios for the Blue Jays. Molitor managed Berrios when he was first called up to the major leagues.
"I know Berrios very well, managed him for four years up here, he's a good kid, and incredible worker," said Molitor. "It's going to be special for him to get a chance to take the mound at Target Field in a playoff game against his former team."
"I think it's going to be another low-scoring affair, they both spin the ball very well," Molitor said. "I think it's going to be about who can avoid those backup sliders in the middle of the zone that can lead to some quick runs for both teams if either guy isn't sharp."
As a Hall-of-Fame infielder who ranks 11th in MLB history with 3,319 hits, Molitor can't help but get back in the mindset of being a hitter when watching these two teams compete in the postseason.
"These guys need to slow the game down a bit," he said. "They go up there trying to hit home runs... they need to try to have good at-bats and put pressure on the other team and hopefully knock that starter out as quick as possible."
Even the atmosphere of a playoff game can affect each player differently, Molitor believes. He was reminded of his time in the playoffs with Milwaukee and Toronto when Target Field erupted for Lewis' home runs during Tuesday's game.
"It was so loud in the stadium yesterday - my son asked me if I could hear all that noise when I was hitting in the playoffs. In 1982, I was in the World Series as a youngster and it overwhelmed me," said Molitor. "When I made it back in 1993 with the Blue Jays, I was an older player, more experienced, made a concerted effort to take it in, visualize some good memories, slow it down and obviously the results were a lot better when you can do something like that."
Molitor was on first base for one of the biggest moments in MLB history - Joe Carter's walk-off home run in the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays - and is torn about where his allegiances lie for this series between his current and former team.
"I will say - I wouldn't mind seeing a Game 3," he said.