If the Minnesota Twins are gonna make a charge in the AL Central, their time is now. As they kick off a four game series with Chicago tomorrow, it also starts a string of 16 straight games against the AL Central. 12 of those 16 will be played following the All Star Break, and to make it even better, those 12 will be played at Target Field. Following Wednesday's loss, the Twins have won 14 out of their last 19 at Target Field. Clearly, they have regained their home field advantage this season.
Yes, the Twins are still without Jason Kubel, Denard Span, and Justin Morneau. But they should be getting Delmon Young back following the All Star Break (Although, with the way he has played this season, that is not a great thing to boast). But, somehow, someway, this team always finds a way to win in its darkest hour. And that time has suddenly come upon us.
One thing that will be vital to the Twins success during this stretch is their closer. Matt Capps is in the middle of a torrid stretch right now. In his past three outings, Capps has allowed 9 hits and 5 earned runs in just 1.2 innings pitched. He blew a save then had to be replaced by Glen Perkins (Who finished the job both times) to get the save. Gardy said following Tuesday night's game that Capps is still the closer, but his situation would be addressed in the next few days. So my interpretation is that Gardy wants to give Capps the same leash he gave Joe Nathan in April, but Capps is running out of time. Meanwhile, Joe Nathan has not allowed a run in four of his five outings since returning from the DL, and has only allowed just 2 hits in those 5 outings (5 IP) while striking out 5. Needless to say, Joe Nathan is knocking on the door of his old job.
Besides the closer spot, and the bullpen for that matter, the Twins have been playing at a much higher quality lately. Starters are going deeper into games and pitching more effectively, and hitters are starting to get those clutch hits that weren't coming in April and May. Its been much easier watching the Twins play as of late.
Another role that will be key to the Twins in this run, will be that of their catcher/first baseman Joe Mauer. Mauer will get his first shot at first base in tomorrow's opener against the Sox. And if all goes well, he should be getting some more regular action there with Justin Morneau out until early-mid August. So having Mauer in the lineup regularly, against divisional foes, will really help the Twins moving ahead.
And finally, the biggest reason for a Twins surge now, is it can shape how the Twins will shape the roster with the trade deadline looming at the end of the month. If they can have a successful run and get their AL Central deficit down to 4-6 games and keep it there, look for the Twins to become buyers at the trade deadline. Because lets face it, the central is a weak division. And a acquisition or two could make the Twins contenders again. But, if the Twins can't get it together and have a horrible stretch, they could easily turn into sellers at the trade deadline. So a lot is riding on these next 16 games.
So now the time has come. It really is win or go home in the next two and a half weeks for the Minnesota Twins. And what makes this favorable is the fact they are playing the teams they have had the most success against since Ron Gardenhire took over as manager, their AL Central foes (Chicago, Kansas City, Cleveland and Detroit). The time is now Twins, lets show the world we can still do this!
NOTE: I will be in Chicago this weekend to watch the Twins battle Ozzie's bunch. I'll try and get a post in, but since its a vacation for me I wouldn't bet on it. Look for my recap of the weekend on Monday.