After winning the 1987 World Series, the Minnesota Twins returned to the Fall Classic in 1991 after regressing the previous three years. Minnesota posted a record of 95-64, their best record since the 1970 season. 1991 American League Rookie of the Year Chuck Knoblauch along with breakout pitchers Scott Erickson and Kevin Tapani were crucial pieces in helping the Twins get back to postseason contention. The Twins were led by manager Tom Kelly, who helped Minnesota win it all four years earlier. Over in the National League, the Atlanta Braves made the postseason for the first time since 1982. The Braves went into the 1991 All-Star break at 39-40. With the help of the 1991 NL MVP Terry Pendleton and NL Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine, the Braves put up a 94-65 record, their best since the 1957 season.
Thrills of the 1991 World Series
These two teams would meet in a legendary November Classic. Twelve years after this World Series in 2003, ESPN rated the 1991 World Series the ‘Greatest of All Time.’ This series went the full seven games, with five games decided by just one run, and three games went into extra innings. Also, the 1991 World Series shares the record for the longest seven-game World Series in terms of innings, with 69 innings played in total.
Major League Baseball’s postseason picture is much different from what it used to be. Nowadays, we know about the MLB’s Divisional Series, but it would not be presented in the majors until 1995. Back then, only four teams made the postseason; the two teams with the best record from each League would clinch a playoff spot. The Toronto Blue Jays held a home-field advantage over the Twins, while the Pittsburgh Pirates had home-field against the Braves.
Twins & Braves Final Step Before the World Series
Minnesota’s bullpen held off the Jays offense in Game One, while Toronto came back to even the series in Game Two. Game Three was significant for both clubs. With the series tied at one game apiece and the ballgame tied at two, this game headed into extra innings. Twins pinch-hitting third baseman Mike Pagliarulo hit the game-winning home run in the top of the tenth. Starting pitcher Jack Morris and reliever Steve Bedrosian shut down the Blue Jays’s offense during Game Four in a 9-3 win, taking a 3-1 series lead. In Game Five, Toronto held a 5-2 lead at one point. Minnesota scored six unanswered runs to reach their second World Series appearance in four years.
With the Pirates taking Game One of the 1991 NLCS, Atlanta would win Game Two on the road, tying the series. Back in Atlanta, the Braves dominated in a 10-3 Game Three victory. Game Four and Five was won by Pittsburgh, who won each game by one run. Game Four of this series went into extra innings. In Game Five, Pirates starting pitcher Zane Smith pitched a gem, allowing no runs and only seven hits in the 1-0 win.
The Braves returned two nights later to give the Pirates a taste of their medicine. Atlanta won Game Six on the road 1-0 to tie the series at three games apiece to push a decisive Game Seven. Braves starting pitcher John Smoltz threw a shutout 4-0 win. Smoltz allowed six hits while striking out eight Pirate batters. Atlanta would reach the World Series for the first time since 1958, their first since moving to Atlanta in 1966.
First Five Games of the 1991 November Classic
Atlanta would only be able to get a little on the scoreboards in games one and two of the 1991 World Series. Twins starting pitchers Jack Morris and Kevin Tapani held the Braves to just four runs over the first two games. However, the Braves came back in Game Three firing. After five innings of play, they held a 4-1 lead. Minnesota scored three unanswered runs to tie the game and push this one into extra innings. This game would go all the way until the 12th inning. With two outs and runners at first and second, Braves second Mark Lemke became his team’s well-needed hero. Lemke hit a single into left field, barely scoring outfielder David Justice. This gave the Braves a 5-4 win, and they cut the series deficit to 2-1.
During Game Three, Twins manager Tom Kelly ran out of players, as he used every available player on the Twins World Series roster. The only players he should have used were Game One and Two starters Jack Kelly and Kevin Tapani. Game Four would be tied at two apiece heading into the bottom of the ninth. This time, it would be Lemke who would barely beat the tag at home after catcher Jerry Willard hit a short fly ball into right field. Even with objections from multiple Twins players, the Braves obtained a 3-2 win, which tied up the series at two. Minnesota could not answer the Braves six-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning during Game Five, falling 14-5.
Minnesota Wins Final Two Games Back at Home
Atlanta needed one more win on the road to become the 1991 World Series champions. The Twins needed to respond in a big way. Especially after losing all three games on the road and two in extra innings. Minnesota took Game Six in an 11-inning win. After the Twins held a 3-2 lead after seven innings of play, Braves outfielder Ron Gant tied the game up with what looked to be a double-play ball. Gant beat the throw to first, allowing a run to score. In extra innings, Twins outfielder Kirby Puckett launched a solo shot to left-center field, giving the Twins a 4-3 lead and the win. Puckett’s game-winning home run pushed for the first game seven in the World Series since Minnesota’s last appearance in 1987.
The decisive Game Seven was simply a pitcher’s duel. This game would have no score in nine innings of action, pushing another extra-inning matchup. Twins’ Gene Larkin hit the game-winning single deep into left field. This scored Dan Gladden as the series-winning run. The Minnesota Twins would win this big Game Seven matchup 1-0. Jack Morris pitched a complete game through ten innings. Morris put up a 2-0 record through 23 innings. He allowed just three runs on 18 hits in three appearances and was named the 1991 World Series MVP.
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