Reusse: An ‘upset’ in baseball? Might not be what you think it is

·4 min read

The Twins reached the one-third point of a traditional 162-game major league schedule on Friday night with a 9-3 victory at Toronto.

The daily exercise that is baseball causes us to avoid the label "upset" during a regular season.

Winning as 2½-point underdogs on the road … the local headlines will trumpet a chest-thumping football upset for the Vikings or the Gophers.

The 2021-22 Timberwolves win in two overtimes at Philadelphia to get to .500. Upset! Any game the Gophers men's team wins in 2021-22. Upset! Any game the current Lynx win. Upset!

The random nature of hockey outcomes makes the term less-used during a regular season. The losers simply say, "We didn't work hard enough," the winners say, "We worked really hard tonight," and on they go to the next 4-2 game with an empty-netter.

Baseball "upsets" in the 162 prior to October? Nope.

As has been said forever (even when the schedule was a concise 154 prior to 1961): The worst teams are going to win 50.

"The Twins lose four out of five in Detroit, they're missing a bunch of players and, somehow, they do a complete 180 tonight and beat a hot Toronto team," Glen Perkins said. "I don't call it an 'upset.' I say, 'This is baseball.'

"The worst teams we had in the last decade, we couldn't hit or pitch for a week or more, and then we'd play a good series and beat a team better than us two out of three."

Perkins was driving home and talking on his speaker Friday night, after working the radio broadcast with Dan Gladden. They did so watching the telecast at Target Field, after the Cory Provus-Kris Atteberry tandem tested positive for COVID-19 in Detroit and couldn't go to Toronto.

Perkins was an All-Star closer for the Twins from 2013 to '15, then a bad shoulder ended his career two years later. He has done some media work since then.

Personally, I can credit being an impatient septuagenarian for my disgust with Twins' bad play and thus quick predictions of gloom. That fits with overreactions also to be found in a share of the social media world.

"I've actually found myself doing some of that in the media," Perkins said. "I've heard myself saying, 'I don't how they're going to come back from a loss like this.'

"All those years in clubhouses, I know that's not the way it is. Baseball's every day. You come back tomorrow, shoot the bull in the clubhouse, get ready to play."

The Twins had emergency starter Chi Chi Gonzalez on Friday, backed by a makeshift bullpen. Two regulars were missing in Carlos Correa (COVID list) and Max Kepler (non-vaxxed, banned in Canada).

They also had two players leave with nicks during the game: Kyle Garlick, after hitting two home runs off lefty Yusei Kikuchi; and Gio Urshela, the Twins' best player for the past 10 days.

Toronto was on an eight-game winning streak. The Blue Jays were -220 on the money line, meaning you had to invest $220 to win $100.

"We would be in New York in the later '90s; I'd look in the paper and see the Yankees were minus-285," former Twins manager Tom Kelly said Friday. "I'd walk in the clubhouse and ask a few players, 'Do you know what this means? I think it's if you want to make $100 on the Yankees, you'd have to put up $285. That's the chance they give us today?'

"We'd have fun with it … get the fellas a little fired up. Even in those losing years, we'd have some decent series against the Yankees."

Kelly watched Friday's game from his Twin Cities home. What was his observation of the -220 win?

"I think the best thing that happened to the Twins was when [Vlad] Guerrero hit that monster home run and took forever to run around the bases," Kelly said. "That was one of the slowest home run trips I've ever seen.

"And the rest of the night, the Blue Jays were swinging out of their shoes. That [Jovani] Moran kid came in and they swung through his slow stuff. Then [Jharel] Cotton threw some great changeups and the Blue Jays just kept swinging harder."

Kelly paused, and then said: "That Garlick. He can hammer lefthanded pitching. That's a nice weapon for a manager."

So, that's it: The brief anatomy of a baseball upset.