The Minnesota Twins aren’t the first team that comes to mind when you think of the MLB Playoffs, but right now that’s where they’re heading! And we’re not talking Wild Card status either. The Twins are absolutely dominating the AL Central Division with a record of 58-34, the third-best in the entire MLB, solidly ahead of the second-place Cleveland Indians (who we might have expected to be up top) by six games.
However, the Twins have cooled off in recent weeks since starting off the season with a bangin’ 47-22 record. They’ve gone just 5-5 in their last ten games (and a lowly 11-12 in their last 23). But over the weekend, the Twins managed to pull of their series against the Indians 2-1, so it’s not all bad! With 523 runs scored so far this season compared to 402 given up, the Twins have a run differential of +121, which is the second best in the MLB. Only the Dodgers have better than that.
Furthermore, the Twins’ outstanding yet surprising performance doesn’t feel like a fluke. And their recent losses could be explained by the fact that Minnesota hasn’t played many home games lately. It’s been said that Twins fans have endured a lot of bad baseball over the years to finally experience what’s happening now – they’re actually in a pennant race! So as the team returns to Target Field for nine games in a row, will they turn things around? Or are they meant for that disappointing Wild Card slot?
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About the Twins Pitching…
Two-time MLB All Star Jose Berrios is a leader on this Twins team and in the bullpen. At the All Star break, he had a 3.00 ERA, fourth among American League starters. He pitched against the Cardinals on Sunday for five innings, but couldn’t hold them off, allowing six hits and three earned runs.
Kyle Gibson and All Star Jake Odorizzi also started against the Cardinals, but these two were able to bring home the win. Odorizzi had a career-best first half of the season with a 3.15 ERA, 10 wins in a row at one point, and only three runs total given up in the month of May. (Too bad a blister kept him from playing in the All Star game.) Gibson, on the other hand, is a veteran pitcher who is great when he’s great, but awful be he gets into his own head.
Then you’ve got Michael Pineda, who is fresh off Tommy John surgery but looking good, striking out 31 batters over his last five starts. He might actually be the best starting pitcher on this team. Apparently, the Twins are going to let his pitching decide how many games he plays rather than handling him too delicately because of the surgery. Over 92 innings this season, he’s only walked 16 batters, which is the second-lowest in the American League. The right-hander says, “ We feel pretty good about the way I have been throwing the ball… I feel good for the opportunity the Twins have given to me. So I try to be ready every five days and throw everything on the mound.”
Left-hander Martin Perez stabilizes the bullpen rotation, Taylor Rogers may be one of the best relievers in the American League, and Mike Morin and rookie Ryne Harper have both been better than expected this season. So it’s not like the Twins are badly hurting for pitchers who can perform. But still, you can bet the Twins higher-ups are looking for more pitching staff – specifically a reliever to pair with Rogers – as the July 31st trade deadline approaches. Just a little something that will put them over the edge if they’re going to stand a chance in the postseason…
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There’s more than just the visiting teams and the rest of the American League to worry about though. The Twins aren’t sure when Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario (sprained ankle) will return to the lineup. Buxton hit his face on the ground going for a catch in a recent game. And then there’s first baseman CJ Cron who has been dealing with inflammation in his right thumb (though he could play as early as this week).
The good news? Those statement road wins that the Twins pulled off against the Indians this weekend? That was without Cron and Rosario, who are two of their best hitters.
The Twins will continue their homestand tonight with a two-game series against the New York Mets, followed by a four-game series against the Oakland A’s through the weekend. Next week, they’ll take on the Yankees, the team that holds the best record in the American League and an important measuring stick for the playoffs. The Twins will be looking to redeem themselves against the A’s and the Yankees – both teams went 2-1 against Minnesota earlier in the season – and meanwhile, you can bet Twins fans will be crossing their fingers and knocking on wood as the trade deadline and the postseason edge even closer.
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