Ron Gardenhire was hired as Minessota Twins manager on January 4, 2002. Since then, the Twins have won the American League Central six times. From their MLB debut in 1961 until 2001, the Twins made the playoffs five times.
This year, Gardenhire's club is back in the playoffs, facing off against the Yankees in the ALDS for the fourth time since 2003. Led by Joe Mauer and a resurgent Francisco Liriano, the 2010 Twins are better equipped than maybe any previous Gardenhire-led team to upset New York and head on to the ALCS for the first time since 2002.
With that in mind, we take a look at the 10 best playoff performers in Minnesota Twins history, from the mid-60s to this past decade of dominance.
An original Twin, Killebrew started his career with Washington before the Senators moved to Minesotta and became the Twins. By then, he was already one of the game's most feared hitters.
Killebrew had a down season in 1965, but hit .286 with a home run for the Twins in their World Series loss to the Dodgers.
Harmon was also a member of the 1969 and 1970 AL West champion teams, and although both teams lost to Baltimore, Killebrew had two home runs and four RBI in the 1970 ALCS.
The 1987 Twins Gold Glove third baseman started off their first playoff run since 1970 with a bang.
In the first game of the 1987 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, Gary Gaetti went 2-for-4, with two home runs in the team's 9-5 victory. Gaetti also walked, and scored three runs.
Gary was named MVP of the series, and the Twins moved on to the World Series for the first time since '65, beating the Cardinals in seven games.
The Twins' power hitting right fielder during the 1980s, Tom Brunansky lands the eight spot on this list due to his performance in the 1987 ALCS.
Brunansky had a solid year in '87, setting career highs in home runs and slugging percentage. The Twins won the West and faced the Tigers in the first round of the playoffs.
While Gaetti won the series MVP award, Brunansky had the better ALCS, hitting .412 with a pair of home runs and nine RBI. The Twins defeated Detroit, and eventually the Cardinals, winning their first World Series.
One of the best pitchers in Twins franchise history, Radke was a control pitcher who ate up innings and didn't walk people. In his 12-year Twins career, Radke won nearly 150 games, and threw 35 playoff innings.
In 2002, Radke was already an established pitcher for Minnesota at 29 years old. Despite a poor season, Radke started Game 1 of the ALDS. In five innings, he gave up just a single run, and the Twins went up 1-0.
Four days latter, in a decisive Game 5, Radke pitched into the seventh inning and the Twins won, advancing to the ALCS in Gardenhire's first year.
Radke put forth a good effort in Game 4 of the World Series, pitching into the seventh again and allowing only two runs, but the Twins eventually lost the game, and the series.
Dave Boswell was just 24 in 1969 when he went 20-12 for the Twins with a 3.23 ERA. After a few solid relief innings in the 1965 series, Boswell was making his first playoff start as the Twins faced off against Baltimore in Game 1 of the ALCS.
This was Boswell's one start, and he actually didn't win. So why does he make this list?
Boswell pitched 10.2 shutout innings, and with the score still tied at zero, handed the ball to his bullpen. The bullpen immediately gave up a run, and the Orioles won.
Great performance nonetheless.
In 1965, 29-year-old Mudcat Grant led the league in wins with 21 and shutouts with six for the American League champion Minnesota Twins.
Grant started Game 1, throwing a complete game, allowing two runs, and picking up the victory, defeating Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. After a loss in Game 4, Grant came back on short rest in Game 6, throwing another complete game victory and allowing just a single run to keep the Twins alive.
Unfortunately for Grant and the Twins, the Dodgers won Game 7 and the series.
One of the best pitchers in baseball over the past decade, and easily the best second half pitcher in quite some time, Johan Santana played a huge role in a few of the Twins runs the past decade.
Santana had a truly dominant season in 2004, going 20-6 with a league-leading 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts. Santana dominated down the stretch, going 14-1 with a 1.21 ERA after the All-Star break, and leading the Twins to the playoffs for the third straight year.
There they met the mighty Yankees who ousted them in 2003. Santana gave the Twins a head start in Game 1, pitching seven shutout innings in a Twins victory. In Game 4, with the Twins ahead two games to one, Santana put together another tremendous start, going five innings and allowing just one run. The Yankees came back to win that game and the series, but Santana certainly put his team in a chance to win.
In 2006, Santana made his final postseason start for the Twins, going eight innings and allowing just two runs, but ultimately losing to Barry Zito and the Oakland Athletics.
One of the Twins' top pitchers during the 1980s, Frank Viola went 17-10 with a 2.90 ERA in a resurgent 1987 season, a year before winning the 1988 American League Cy Young award, and two years before a trade to the New York Mets.
But it was the 1987 World Series that lands Viola on this list.
In Game 1 of the series, Viola went eight innings, allowing just a single run and giving the Twins a 1-0 edge. After losing Game 4, Viola came back to pitch the final game of the series, when he threw eight innings, allowing just two runs and clinching the series for Minnesota.
For his performance, Viola received the World Series MVP award.
Kirby Puckett played 12 years with the Twins. Although he only made the playoffs twice, he made both trips count.
In 1987, after a tough ALCS for Puckett, the Twins faced off in the World Series against the Cardinals. Puckett hit .357 in the series, going 6-for-9 in the final two games and driving in the tying run in the decisive Game 7 victory.
Puckett was back in 1991. After hitting just 15 home runs in the regular season, Puckett hit four in the playoffs. His last playoff home run made him a postseason legend.
In Game 6, with the Twins facing elimination and the game tied in the 11th inning, Puckett hit a walkoff home run to face a Game 7, which the Twins won.
Jack Morris may have won more games during the 1980s than any other pitcher, but today is he undeniably best remembered for just one game. That game, the seventh and final game of the 1991 World Series, lands him the top spot on our list.
36-year-old Jack Morris was the Twins' best pitcher in 1991, winning 18 games with a 3.43 ERA, and completing more than nine games for the 13th straight year.
Morris beat Toronto twice in the ALCS, and started the first game of the World Series, beating Atlanta and throwing seven innings of two-run baseball. Though the Braves beat Morris in his next start, Morris got another chance in Game 7.
With the series on the line, Morris went 10 shutout innings, striking out eight in the historic complete game 1-0 victory.