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Is empty Target Field key for the Twins?

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The Twins are 7-1 at home so far this season...

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Minnesota Twins
Nelson Cruz will hit anywhere, but he loves hitting at Target Field.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins started the 2020 season with a 10-2 mark and were a Taylor Rogers blown save from an 11-2 record. Now, a four-game slide has dropped Rocco Baldelli’s crew to 10-6.

Of course, that’s still good enough to be tied with New York for second-best in the American League. It would feel much better to everyone involved if the Twins weren’t still mired in the midst of a losing streak longer than any they went through during the 2019 campaign, but 10-6 isn’t exactly the end of the world.

Among the 16 games played through Sunday, the Twins have played an even number at home versus on the road. They are 7-1 at Target Field and 3-5 away from 1 Twins Way.

However, at first glance, it would make sense for there to be less of a home-field advantage in 2020. With no fans in the stands, does it really matter where the games are played?

But consider that on the road, players travel from their individual hotel rooms to the clubhouse. No team dinners, no congregating in each other’s rooms to play video games, no forays to favorite watering holes in visiting cities. Just isolation. And then, upon arrival at the ballpark, players are masking and distancing in the clubhouse, too. Surely, it’s a very different and much less-hospitable atmosphere.

At home, players are at least able to go back to their homes and sleep in their own bed, spending time with their families and some sense of normalcy.

Obviously, 16 games into a 60-game season is a painfully small sample size. League-wide, home teams have a winning percentage of .512 through Saturday. Last season, home teams put up a mark of .529. To this point, at least, home-field advantage seems to be less obvious of an advantage than normal. But for the Twins, the difference has been quite real and rather stark.

Minnesota is about to play three games in Milwaukee before heading back to Target Field for a seven-game homestand against Kansas City and Milwaukee. After the three-game home set against the Brewers next week, the Twins will only face A.L. Central opponents until the final weekend of the season, when they’ll host the Cincinnati Reds for three games.

This isn’t to suggest that the Twins will win home games at an 87.5% clip for the rest of the season, but if the trend holds (which also assumes that the Royals and Tigers will both come back to earth a bit over the next six weeks or so), then the Twins shouldn’t have any problem righting the ship once they return to Target Field.