It is understandable that for a long time few people paid attention to this American League Central Division. No team in this division had a record over .500 as of July 14. It has been almost a month since a club was less than 5.0 games away from the top of the league. And to be honest, when the second-place team trades away one of their best pitchers at the deadline, it’s hard to emotionally focus on the rankings.
That’s why the Twins are hardly mentioned when the top candidates in the Young Circuit are discussed. This is despite the fact that they are guaranteed a home postseason series and that they quietly had an excellent second half that puts them on a move toward 92 wins on the season.
Now that they’ve pulled away from the Guardians in the AL Central, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at Minnesota’s roster. While we all pay attention to the East and West of the AL, the Twins are discreetly getting into shape and planning to reach the World Series.
What arguments does Minnesota have? Here are five reasons why we shouldn’t discount him – and why his potential opponents should be more vigilant in October.
1. They could have the best 1-2 in a rotation between teams that would take place in October
The best reason to have high hopes for the Twins is the arms that lead the starting lineup. Any sadness the team’s fans felt when they saw Venezuelan Luis Arráez dazzle everyone (and hit the ball all over the field) in Miami this year disappeared with the performance of fellow Venezuelan Pablo López. For the first time in his career, López gained strength as the season progressed; He has a 2.66 ERA in the second half, and he also struck out 14 and allowed just two hits in his last appearance against the Mets.
Sonny Gray has looked even better this year with a 2.96 earned run average, largely due to his ability to keep the ball from reaching the stands (he has allowed just seven home runs in 167 innings ). Some may highlight the Astros’ Framber Valdez-Justin Verlander combination, but losing Max Scherzer for the remainder of the season leaves the Rangers out of the debate. So: Will there be a better starting combination than Lopez and Gray for Games 1 and 2? Some might say this is the best one-two combination the Twins have had in the postseason since the days of Johan Santana and Brad Radke…possibly much better.
After a tumultuous offseason for the Puerto Rican, all attention from Opening Day was on the shortstop and his health. It’s hard not to imagine that it all affected him a bit, as his on-field woes for much of the season led to the worst numbers of his career and left some fans in Queens and San Francisco breathing a sigh of relief.
But for those who haven’t noticed, Correa is hitting the ball hard again. September was his best month of the season so far, with an OPS of .850, and he barely hit a double play grounder – which was one of his biggest problems this year. Correa had enough moments in October to show he was a major threat on the biggest stages, and a Minnesota team that didn’t have the superstar it expected can count itself lucky that he showed up at the ideal time.
Another No. 1 draft pick has emerged that has impressed the Twins. This is Royce Lewis, who has been on fire since returning to the squad on August 15th. In his first 25 games leading up to Tuesday’s action, he had an offensive line of .286/.358/.582 with eight home runs, 29 RBIs and four steals – it was the injection of energy Minnesota needed.
But you don’t have to be No. 1 to be a big part of this team’s work. Rookie Edouard Julien has been one of the league’s best stories all year, Colombian Donovan Solano is experiencing a rebound at 35, and Max Kepler is hitting again like he did in 2019. The Twins are attacking with several weapons that no one has ever seen, something , which successful postseason teams know how to do.
Minnesota may lack depth, but whichever team has a run in the ninth inning, the last pitcher you want to see would be Jhoan Durán, who lacks a bit of control at times, but that’s exactly what makes hitters uncomfortable. Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar and Emilio Pagán are also solid options, and someone like Kenta Maeda could also fill a backup role. The wonderful thing is that, with their spot in the postseason virtually assured, the Twins can explore a few alternatives to find the right combination. But it is clear that they have the necessary weapons.
Here’s the biggest factor. Minnesota fans don’t need to be reminded of this fact; It feels a little cruel to even write it here, but we should mention it: The Twins have lost a staggering number – 18 – of consecutive postseason games since 2004. (Puerto Rican Rubén Sierra played in the last playoff game that Minnesota won. He was a rookie in 1986!) This kind of streak is so absurd that it doesn’t even seem real.
Minnesota would like to win a postseason series at some point, but it all starts with one game. The Twins will likely face the Blue Jays, Rangers or Mariners in this first series, and with Gray and Lopez on the mound in a raucous Target Field crowd, some would think they could win one of those, right? And when they win one, it finally helps them get into the rhythm. Well, that’s the hope. And most importantly, they won’t face the Yankees, who are responsible for 13 of those 18 defeats. Anything that helps.