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On This Date in Sports October 27, 1991: Twins Win

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Minnesota Twins win the World Series, beating the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in ten innings in Game 7 at the Metrodome. It was the first Game 7 of the World Series to end with a walk-off since Bill Mazeroski's home run in 1960. It was also the first Game 7 to go to extra innings since 1924 when the Washington Senators beat the New York Giants. The Twins got a masterful pitching performance from World Series MVP Jack Morris, who spread out seven hits over ten innings, while Gene Larkin's single with the bases loaded was the game's only run. 

It was the worst to first World Series, as the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins reached the 1991 Fall Classic, after finishing in last place in 1990. The Braves had been a team that was on the verge of a turnaround for a few seasons, as they built a stellar young pitching staff with John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Steve Avery. Led by Bobby Cox, the Braves had a strong second half and edged the Dodgers by one game to win the National League West with a record of 94-68. Along the way, fans began doing the tomahawk chop, which started when Deion Sanders, a Florida State alum, came to the plate. 

The Minnesota Twins had won a World Series in 1987 but struggled over the next three seasons, as the Oakland Athletics went to the World Series in each season. The Twins were forced to deal ace Frank Viola in 1989 but received Rick Aguilera in return. Aguilera was turned into a closer in 1990 and played a critical role in the Twins' success saving 42 games in 1991. The Twins also benefited from the collusion rulings that made Jack Morris a free agent. Morris signed a one-year contract with Minnesota, winning 18 games, while Scott Erickson won 20 as the Twins managed by Tom Kelly won the West with a record of 95-67.

In the ALCS, the Twins made quick work of the Toronto Blue Jays, winning in five games, as Jack Morris won twice and Kirby Puckett was named the series MVP. The Braves had a tougher task against the Pittsburgh Pirates, as they trailed 3-2 and had to win two games in Pittsburgh. The Braves won 1-0 in Game 6 and 4-0 in Game 7 as Avery and Smoltz delivered masterful performances, with Steve Avery winning NLCS MVP. 

The World Series began at the Metrodome, where four years earlier, the Twins won four games in the first Fall Classic that had the home team win all seven games. Jack Morris made the start against Charlie Liebrant. In the third inning, the Twins scored the first run on a single by Chuck Knoblauch. In the fifth inning, the Twins stretched the lead to 4-0 on a home run by Greg Gagne. After Ron Gant put Atlanta on the board, the Twins again made it a four-run lead on a home run by Kent Hrbek. Gant had a second RBI in the eighth as the Twins won the opener 5-2. 

Kevin Tapani, who was also acquired in the Viola deal, made the start for Minnesota in Game 2, while Tom Glavine started for the Braves. In the first inning, the Twins got an early 2-0 lead on a home run by Chili Davis. The Braves got one run back in the second, on a sac-fly by Brian Hunter, and they would tie the game in the fifth on a sac-fly by Rafael Belliard. The game remained tied until the eighth, when Scott Leius homered off Glavine to make it 3-2, which would be the final as Rick Aguilera earned his second save of the series. 

The Tomahawks were out in full force in Game 3 at Fulton County Stadium, as the World Series came to Atlanta for the first time. Scott Erickson started for the Twins, while Steve Avery started for the Braves. Dan Gladden led off with a triple and scored on a sac-fly by Chuck Knoblauch. Rafael Belliard tied the game with an RBI single in the second. The Braves took their first lead in the fourth when David Justice hit a lead-off homer. They added two runs in the fifth and led 4-1 when the Twins began to crawl back into the game. The Twins got one run in the seventh on a home run by Kirby Puckett and two in the eighth as Chili Davis greeted reliever Alejandro Pena with a two-run blast. The game went into extra innings, tied 4-4. In the 12th inning, the Twins loaded the bases but were out of pinch hitters as Rick Aguilera, who was coming into pitch, flied out to deep center against Jim Clancy. The Braves would win the four-hour marathon 5-4 on a single by Mark Lemke in the 12th.

Jack Morris returned to the mound for the Twins in Game 4, while John Smoltz made his first appearance in the World Series. Mike Pagliarulo gave the Twins a lead in the second inning with an RBI single. The Braves tied the game in the third on a home run by NL MVP Terry Pendleton. The game remained tied until the seventh when Pagliarulo homered to give the Twins a 2-1 lead. The Braves quickly tied the game on a home run by Lonnie Smith as the game went to the bullpens. Mike Stanton was solid for the Braves, while Mark Lemke had a triple against Mark Guthrie. After Jeff Blauser was walked, there was some gamesmanship as Steve Bedrosian came into face Francisco Cabrera. Instead, Jerry Willard came up and hit the game-winning sac-fly to even the series.

Following their 3-2 win, the Braves had Tom Glavine on the mound for Game 5. Glavine had lost his previous three starts in the postseason, as Kevin Tapani started for the Twins. The Braves jumped out with four runs in the fourth to take control of the game. David Justice started the rally with a two-run homer he was followed by a triple from Lemke and a double by Belliard. The Braves scratched out another run in the fifth before the Twins scored three runs in the sixth to get back in the game. In the seventh, Atlanta exploded for six runs, with Lonnie Smith hitting his third homer of the series, while Mark Lemke had another triple to score two runs. The Braves would win the game 14-5 as they went back to Minnesota, needing one win to take the World Series. 

The Twins were down 3-2, but they had been here before in 1987, having won all four games at the Metrodome. Steve Avery faced Scott Erickson in Game 6, as the World Series was set for high drama. The Twins scored two runs in the first, with Kirby Puckett providing the thunder with an RBI triple and scoring on a single by Shane Mack. The Braves tied the game in the fifth on a two-run home run by Terry Pendleton. Dan Gladden led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk, stole second, and later scored on a sac-fly by Puckett to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead. The Braves again tied the game in the seventh when Mark Lemke scored on a Ron Gant grounder. The game went into extra innings, with Rick Aguilera pitching two innings for Minnesota without allowing a run. Anticipating a long night, Bobby Cox gave the ball to Charlie Liebrandt in the 11th inning. He would face just one batter as Kirby Puckett hit a home run to give the Twins a 4-3 win, as Jack Buck said, "See You Tomorrow Night." It was the game of Puckett, as he had also made a brillant catch to save a run. 

Game 7 was Jack Morris against John Smoltz. Neither pitcher allowed a run, as it turned into a pitchers' duel for the ages. Both teams had their chances to score, but a baserunning blunder by Lonnie Smith and a double play in the eighth cost the Braves dearly. The Twins had their chance in the ninth as they got the first two runners on base. However, Alejandro Pena came in and induced a double play by Shane Mack as the game went scoreless into extra innings. Morris was still on the mound for Minnesota in the tenth inning, pitching a 1-2-3 inning. Pena, meanwhile, got into trouble as Dan Gladden led off with a double. Chuck Knoblauch bunted Gladden to third, as the Braves decided to intentionally walk the next two batters to load the bases. Up stepped Gene Larkin, who hit the ball in the air, which fell in to win the game and the series 1-0.