Despite finishing just eight games over .500 and surrendering more runs to the opposition than they themselves scored over the course of the regular season, the Minnesota Twins captured their first A.L. West title in 17 years in 1987, edging out the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics in a close, three-team pennant race. Minnesota concluded the campaign with a record of 85-77, just two games ahead of second—place Kansas City, and only four games in front of third-place Oakland. The Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, California Angels, and Texas Rangers rounded out the final standings in the decidedly mediocre Western Division, with none of the teams finishing more than 10 games off the pace.
The Twins could hardly be described as a typical playoff team. They finished just eighth in the American League with 786 runs scored, placed 10th in the circuit with a team ERA of 4.63, and surrendered a total of 806 runs to their opponents during the regular season. Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven were the only members of the starting rotation to post a winning record. Viola finished 17-10 with a 2.90 ERA, while Blyleven went 15-12 with a mark of 4.01. Jeff Reardon saved 31 games in relief, but he compiled an inordinately high 4.48 ERA.
The quartet of Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, and Kirby Puckett paced the Twins on offense. Brunansky hit 32 homers and drove in 85 runs. Gaetti hit 31 home runs, led the team with 109 runs batted in, and scored 95 runs. Hrbek went deep 34 times, knocked in 90 runs, and batted .285. Puckett hit 28 homers, drove in 99 runs, scored 96 others, batted .332, and led the league with 207 hits, en route to earning a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP balloting.
While Minnesota advanced to the postseason with only 85 victories, three teams in the highly-competitive A.L. East failed to earn a playoff berth despite winning more games than the Western Division champs. The Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays battled right down to the wire for the right to represent the East in the ALCS, with the Tigers prevailing in the end by a two-game margin after the Blue Jays faded down the stretch. Detroit finished the regular season with a record of 98-64, while Toronto ended the campaign with a mark of 96-66. Milwaukee placed third in the division, seven games back, while the Yankees finished fourth, nine games off the pace, with a record of 89-73.
Being the stronger of the two divisions, it followed that the A.L. East also featured most of the top players in the American League. Paul Molitor had an outstanding year for the third-place Brewers, finishing second in the league with a .353 batting average, stealing 45 bases, and topping the circuit with 114 runs scored and 41 doubles. Molitor also embarked on a 39-game hitting streak over the course of the season – the longest in the American League since Joe DiMaggio’s record-setting 56-game skein in 1941.
Don Mattingly again performed brilliantly for the fourth-place Yankees, hitting 30 home runs, driving in 115 runs, and batting .327. Mattingly also etched his name into the record books twice during the season. After tying a major league record earlier in the year by homering in eight consecutive games, the first baseman established a new major league mark by hitting his sixth grand-slam home run of the campaign.
Dwight Evans and Wade Boggs both had big years for fifth-place Boston. Evans hit 34 home runs, finished second in the league with 123 runs batted in, batted .305, and scored 109 runs. Boggs established career highs with 24 home runs and 89 runs batted in, scored 108 runs, collected 200 hits, and led the league with a .363 batting average and a .467 on-base-percentage.
Nevertheless, the Tigers and Blue Jays clearly established themselves as the class of the A.L. East, placing at or near the top of the league rankings in most statistical categories. The Tigers topped the circuit with 896 runs scored, 225 home runs, and a .451 team slugging average, and they finished among the leaders with a .272 team batting average, a .349 team on-base percentage, and a 4.02 team ERA. Jack Morris, Walt Terrell, and Frank Tanana each surpassed 15 victories, with Morris leading the staff with 18 wins, a 3.38 ERA, 208 strikeouts, 13 complete games, and 266 innings pitched. On offense, rookie receiver Matt Nokes hit 32 homers and drove in 87 runs. Darrell Evans homered 34 times and knocked in 99 runs. Lou Whitaker led the club with 110 runs scored. Kirk Gibson hit 24 home runs, knocked in 79 runs, and scored 95 others. Alan Trammell earned a close second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by hitting 28 homers, driving in 105 runs, scoring 109 others, and finishing third in the league with 205 hits and a .343 batting average.
Meanwhile, Toronto finished third in the league with 845 runs scored, placed second with 215 home runs, and led the loop with a 3.74 team ERA. Jimmy Key anchored the pitching staff, going 17-8 with a league-leading 2.76 ERA. Jim Clancy and Dave Stieb contributed 15 and 13 victories, respectively. On offense, shortstop Tony Fernandez batted .322, scored 90 runs, and stole 32 bases. Jesse Barfield hit 28 homers, drove in 84 runs, and scored 89 others. Lloyd Moseby hit 26 home runs, knocked in 96 runs, scored 106 others, and batted .282. George Bell hit 47 homers, batted .308, scored 111 runs, and led the league with 134 runs batted in and 369 total bases, en route to earning A.L. MVP honors.
Having edged out Toronto for the division title, Detroit subsequently faced Minnesota in what appeared to be, at least on paper, an ALCS mismatch. The Twins ended up shocking the heavily-favored Tigers, defeating them in five games and thoroughly outplaying them over the course of the Series. The Twins outscored the Tigers by a combined margin of 34-23, winning their two home games and taking two out of three in Detroit. Gary Gaetti earned ALCS MVP honors by batting .300, hitting two homers, and driving in five runs. But Tom Brunansky proved to be an even bigger factor, compiling a batting average of .412, hitting two home runs, and knocking in nine runs.
The Twins continued to play exceptional ball at home during the World Series, routing the St. Louis Cardinals in the first two contests played at the deafening Metrodome. However, the Cardinals grabbed a 3-2 lead in the Series by sweeping the middle three games played in St. Louis. Minnesota’s “Jeckyl and Hyde” act continued when the two teams returned to the Metrodome for the remainder of the Fall Classic. After winning Game Six by a score of 11-5, the Twins took Game Seven, 4-2, giving them the franchise’s first World Series triumph since the Washington Senators won in 1924. Frank Viola was named Series MVP for posting two of his team’s four victories.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• June 2 – The Seattle Mariners used the first overall pick of the draft to select Ken Griffey Jr.
• July 18 - New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly homered in his record-tying eighth straight game. By doing so, he tied a mark previously set by Dale Long in 1956.
• August 26 - Paul Molitor of the Milwaukee Brewers went hitless, ending his 39-game hitting streak – the seventh-longest in major league history.
• Boston’s Roger Clemens earned A.L. Cy Young honors by compiling a 2.97 ERA, striking out 256 batters, throwing 282 innings, and leading the league with 20 wins, 18 complete games, and seven shutouts.
• Oakland's Mark McGwire (49 home runs, 118 RBIs, .289 batting average) earned A.L. Rookie of the Year honors. His league-leading 49 homers established a new record for first-year players.
• Arbiter Thomas Roberts found the owners guilty of collusion after they failed to sign free agents.
• Milwaukee's Juan Nieves threw a no-hitter against Baltimore on April 15.
• The Brewers tied a major league record by opening the season with 13 consecutive wins.
• California’s Bob Boone set a new career record for catchers when he caught his 1,919th game.
• Reggie Jackson retired with 563 home runs and a major league record 2,597 strikeouts.
• Detroit's Darrell Evans set a major league record for players over 40 years old by hitting 34 homers.
• Cal Ripken's record skein of the most consecutive innings played (8,243) came to an end.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Billy Williams, Catfish Hunter, and Ray Dandridge.
• Kansas City rookie Kevin Seitzer batted .323 and tied for the American League lead with 207 hits.
• Detroit's Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker became the first keystone combo in major league history to play on the same team as regulars for 10 seasons.
• Detroit traded John Smoltz to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander.
• Kansas City manager Dick Howser died of a brain tumor.
• Hall of Famer Travis Jackson died at age 83.
• Oakland's Dave Stewart tied Roger Clemens for the league lead with 20 victories.
• Seattle’s Mark Langston won his third American League strikeout crown in four years by fanning 262 batters.
• Kansas City’s Danny Tartabull hit 34 home runs, knocked in 101 runs, scored 95 others, and batted .309.
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- 1987 ALCS, 1987 World Series, Alan Trammell, American League, Bert Blyleven, Bob Boone, Bret Saberhagen, Cal Ripken, Jr., Danny Tartabull, Darrell Evans, Dave Stewart, Dave Stieb, Detroit Tigers, Dick Howser, Don Mattingly, Doyle Alexander, Dwight Evans, Frank Tanana, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, George Bell, Jack Morris, Jeff Reardon, Jesse Barfield, Jim Clancy, Jimmy Key, John Smoltz, Juan Nieves, Kent Hrbek, Kevin Seitzer, Kirby Puckett, Kirk Gibson, Lloyd Moseby, Lou Whitaker, Mark Langston, Mark McGwire, Matt Nokes, Minnesota Twins, Paul Molitor, Reggie Jackson, Roger Clemens, Ron Guidry, Tom Brunansky, Tony Fernandez, Toronto Blue Jays, Wade Boggs, Walt Terrell