|8/15/2019 3:26:00 PM|
Can the Twins do it?
A wise journalist once said a strong editorial page should rarely include sports content - "save it for the sports section."
Up to now, I've had zero sports columns in 2019, but today I cannot resist the urge. This week, for the first time since mid-April, the Twins fell out of first place.
Tuesday's standings showed the Twins trailing the Cleveland Indians by a half-game. That, coupled with Cleveland winning three of four games at Target Field over the weekend, has many Twins fans distressed.
Even those who are not in panic mode are asking the question, "Can the Twins do it? Can they finally win the American League Central?"
I'm no expert, but this seems like a relatively easy question to answer. Of course they can.
If there is one thing the Twins proved this season, it is that they can dominate on offense. What should be particularly encouraging is that Twins hitters have done very well even against some of the league's top pitchers, including Cleveland's all star closer, Brad Hand.
The more accurate question is, "Will the Twins do it?"
While it seems natural, as a Minnesotan, to say, "Here we go again," let's all take a deep breath here. It's not over.
As the team moves toward October, here are a few things to keep in mind:
During last week's Indians series, the Twins were missing one of their most critical players, Byron Buxton and one of their most important hitters, Nelson Cruz. The team is 57-25 with Buxton in the line-up.
The Twins bullpen struggled mightily during July, the period where Cleveland gained the most ground. Since then, the Twins have acquired two solid bullpen arms - Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson. Look for them to play key roles down the stretch, not only holding leads, but also giving closer Taylor Rogers much-needed rest.
One more pitcher to keep an eye on is top pitching prospect Stephen Gonsalves. After an injury, Gonsalves is pitching again in the minors and could well be a difference-maker for the Twins.
Putting it all together
It's impossible to say, at this point, who will win the division.
In fact, my guess is that this race will go down to the final week of the season. This team reminds me a lot of the 1987 Twins, a team that featured great hitting, excellent chemistry and heavy reliance on two starters and two relievers.
The Twins starting rotation will probably lean heavily on starters Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi down the stretch, along with Rogers, Romo and Dyson out of the bullpen. The 1987 team had better defense, this team has far more power.
There is one more factor to consider. Cleveland has won 43 of its last 60 games. If they maintain that pace through August and September, we may have to simply tip our hat to the Indians.