OK, so maybe clutch hitting isn’t an actual skill, and even if it were, with a career -2.75 WPA, Alexi Casilla could hardly be considered clutch. But in his four seasons with the Twins, Casilla has some memorable walkoff hits:
Game 163, October 6, 2009: Casilla, who came in to pinch run for (and I am not making this up) pinch-hitter Brendan Harris in the bottom of the tenth, came to the plate with two on and two out in the bottom of the eleventh inning, then singled off of Fernando Rodney’s 100 billionth pitch of the night, sending the Twins to the ALDS for the fifth time in seven years. I was driving home from work when he poked that single past Placido Polanco to drive in Carlos Gomez, and I started crying so hard that I had to pull over to the side of the road. Perhaps the subsequent sweep by the Yankees tarnished that magical season a little bit, but it’s important to remember that the Twins overcame a three-game deficit with just four left to play to clinch the division. No other team in baseball history has ever done that.
September 25, 2008: The Twins were trailing the division-leading White Sox by just 2.5 games and needed a sweep to take the lead. Thanks to some extra-inning heroics by Casilla, they would get it. With, once again, two out and two on but in the bottom of the tenth this time, Casilla singled off of Bobby Jenks to drive in the winning run and give the Twins a game lead in the division. Of course, they would later lose to the White Sox in game 163 thanks to current Twins hero Jim Thome, but that game capped off what had been another remarkable season for the hometown nine. This was the first season without its then-biggest stars: Johan Santana and Torii Hunter, with Francisco Liriano still struggling to recover from Tommy John surgery; whose .328 wOBA ranked 17th in all of baseball and whose pitching staff boasted a 14th-ranked 4.30 FIP. But, rather than roll over and finish a distant third as so many had predicted coming into the season, the Twins battled hard and traded first place with the Fightin’ Ozzies about once a week since the All-Star break. Perhaps that speaks more to the overall weakness of the division than the actual talent of that team, but whatever, as a fan, it was so much fun to watch. Well, up until the end, that is.