The Twins rose from last place in 1990 (a 74–88 record) and finished the 1991 regular season with a 95–67 record (.586), handily winning the American League West division crown by eight games over the Chicago White Sox. The Blue Jays were similarly successful during the 1991 season, compiling a 91–71 record (.562) and winning the American League East division by seven games over the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. The Twins and Blue Jays played their final regular season series against each other (after both teams had clinched their respective divisions and were resting their starters), with the Blue Jays winning two of the three games. Newspapers were predicting a series of tense and close contests in the following ALCS.
Minnesota won the series, 4–1.
Tuesday, October 8, 1991, at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Game 1 saw a surprise starter for Toronto as Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston chose knuckleballer Tom Candiotti to face the Twins over his new young gun Juan Guzmán and his left-handed ace Jimmy Key. Twins manager Tom Kelly opted to counter with All-Star Game starter and Minnesota native Jack Morris. Gaston would draw questions later when the decision seemingly swung the series against Toronto.
In the bottom of the first, Dan Gladden singled and Chuck Knoblauch did the same. After a strikeout by Kirby Puckett, Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek flied out to center field, moving Gladden to third. Knoblauch stole second and with two on and two out, Chili Davis singled both home to give the Twins an early 2–0 lead.
In the second, the Twins added two more runs. Shane Mack singled off Candotti, stole second, and moved to third on a line out to right by Mike Pagliarulo. He then scored on a Greg Gagne single, and consecutive singles again by Gladden and Knoblauch plated Gagne to give the Twins a 4–0 lead.
In the third, Davis walked with one out, stole second, and scored on a double by Mack. Candiotti's line read: sixteen batters faced, five runs, eight hits, and four stolen bases. He was also responsible for Mack, perched on second. But reliever David Wells, as well as the rest of the Blue Jays relievers, shut down the Twins and held them scoreless for the rest of the game.
In the top of the fourth, the Blue Jays tried to claw back into the game. After a Roberto Alomar single, Joe Carter doubled and Blue Jays third base coach Rich Hacker sent Alomar home. Two perfect throws from the Twins nailed Alomar at the plate for the first out and the squelching of the Blue Jay rally. Carter went to third and scored on John Olerud's subsequent ground out to make the score 5–1.
In the sixth, the Blue Jays got within a single run. Five consecutive singles by Devon White, Alomar, Carter, Olerud, and Kelly Gruber with only one out plated three runs and made the score 5–4. But Carl Willis came on to get the last two outs, and the Minnesota relief corps held the Blue Jays the rest of the way for a 5–4 victory for the Twins and starter Jack Morris. Rick Aguilera got the save while Candiotti was saddled with the loss.
The victory gave the Twins a 1–0 lead in games in the ALCS. It also put them one win short of tying the post-season record for most consecutive wins at home held by the New York Yankees.
Wednesday, October 9, 1991, at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota
The number-two pitchers on each staff squared off in Game 2, as Juan Guzmán took the hill for the Blue Jays against Kevin Tapani for the Twins. A win would not only give the Twins a 2–0 lead, but would also enable them to set the record for the most consecutive home field wins in post-season history, as they had won their first seven post-season games (including the 1987 playoffs and World Series) in the Metrodome. Unfortunately for the Twins, the Blue Jays came out swinging and held on for a 5–2 win.
Devon White began the scoring in the top of the first when he singled, stole second, moved to third on Roberto Alomar's bunt, and scored on Joe Carter's single to give the Jays a 1–0 lead. In the third, White and Alomar struck for two more Blue Jays runs when White doubled, moved to third on Alomar's single, and both scored after Alomar stole second and Kelly Gruber singled both home with two outs. The Blue Jays led, 3–0. The Twins got a run back in the bottom of the third when Chuck Knoblauch singled, stole second, and scored on Kirby Puckett's single. Knoblauch scored again in the sixth when he walked, moved to second on Puckett's ground out, and scored on a single by Brian Harper. The run cut Toronto's lead to 3–2.
Game 2 was a show for Devon White and Roberto Alomar, and in the seventh they put the contest out of reach. After Manuel Lee walked, the Twins relieved Tapani with Steve Bedrosian. White walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Alomar's single scored Lee, and White moved to third on an error by Shane Mack. White then scored his third run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Joe Carter, giving the Blue Jays a 5–2 lead. That was how the game ended.
Guzman was the winning pitcher, and Tapani the loser. Duane Ward got his first post-season save. The Blue Jays ended Minnesota's quest for a record home winning streak and both teams headed to Canada with the games count standing at one win apiece.
Friday, October 11, 1991, at SkyDome in Toronto
With the series tied at one win apiece, the teams ventured across the border to Toronto's Skydome where Jimmy Key squared off against the Twins' twenty-game winner, Scott Erickson. The Blue Jays quickly jumped out to a 2–0 lead in the first when with two out, Joe Carter homered, Kelly Gruber singled, John Olerud singled, and Candy Maldonado doubled Gruber home. Erickson was able to get the third out retiring Rance Mulliniks.
The Twins got on the board in the fifth. Shane Mack led off and hit a triple against the right field wall after Carter twisted an ankle trying to reach the ball and make a circus catch. On Kent Hrbek's grounder to second, Roberto Alomar attempted to get Mack out at the plate, but Mack beat the throw to score. In the bottom half of the inning, manager Tom Kelly, believing that Erickson was hesitant to pitch to Carter, brought on reliever David West. West then struck out Carter, Gruber and Maldonado. The Twins tied it in the sixth when Chuck Knoblauch doubled and scored on Kirby Puckett's single with a head-first slide at the plate. The tie got rid of Jimmy Key as David Wells came on in relief.
The score stayed 2–2 until the tenth. Reliever Mike Timlin came on and after retiring Gene Larkin, gave up an eventual game-winning homer to pinch-hitter Mike Pagliarulo, who was hitting for Scott Leius. Kelly had made an unexpected lineup change having Greg Gagne bat seventh and Leius ninth, ultimately setting up Pagliarulo to face Timlin. Rick Aguilera closed out the bottom of the tenth with a 1–2–3 inning to give the Twins a 3–2 win and a 2–1 lead in games. The hamstring injury to Joe Carter, the Blue Jays' most influential hitter, proved pivotal. Although Carter played in the next two games as the designated hitter, he was in obvious discomfort and was largely a non-factor.
Saturday, October 12, 1991, at SkyDome in Toronto
For the fourth game, Morris returned to the mound for Minnesota against Toronto's Todd Stottlemyre. The Blue Jays took the lead in the bottom of the second, when Candy Maldonado singled to center, took second on a wild pitch by Morris, and came home on a single by Pat Borders. The Twins, however, came back in a big way in the fourth – Kirby Puckett hit a solo home run, Chili Davis, who had doubled, scored on a single by Mike Pagliarulo, and a two-run single by Dan Gladden plated both Pagliarulo and Shane Mack. This turn of events gave the Twins a 4–1 lead and eventually the win.
Sunday, October 13, 1991, at SkyDome in Toronto
With their backs against the wall, the Blue Jays sent Candiotti to the hill for Game 5 against the Twins' Tapani. In the top of the first, Puckett hit a solo home run to give Minnesota a 1–0 lead. The Twins added another run the next inning, when Davis singled, moved to second and then third on consecutive passed balls by Toronto catcher Pat Borders, then came home on a single by Mack.
In the bottom of the second, Tapani struck out Maldonado and Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston disagreed with home plate umpire Mike Reilly. He continued arguing until Reilly finally tossed him. The ejection fired up Toronto who took a 3–2 lead in their half of the third courtesy of an RBI single by Alomar, an RBI double by Carter, and a groundout by Olerud. Alomar added a two-run single in the fourth to give the Jays a 5–2 lead.
In the sixth, the Twins stormed back to tie the game. Mack singled, stole second, then moved to third on a base hit by Pagliarulo. The Jays' third baseman Gruber tried to nab Mack at the plate when Gladden hit into a fielder's choice, but Borders tagged with the wrong hand and Mack scored. Knoblauch followed by lashing a double to right field that scored both Pagliarulo and Gladden, and the game was knotted at 5.
In the eighth, Minnesota took the lead for good when Gladden singled and stole second, and after Knoblauch walked, came home on a single by Puckett, who took second on a throw home. Hrbek then drove both Knoblauch and Puckett in with a single to left, giving the Twins an 8–5 advantage. Rick Aguilera shut the door on the Jays in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Twins their second American League pennant in five years.
1991 ALCS (4–1): Minnesota Twins over Toronto Blue Jays
Fly ball to left field, Dan Gladden is going back on the track...he makes the catch! And the Minnesota Twins have gone from the cellar to the penthouse in the American League!