It sounds absurd, on the face of it, to suggest that the dead-in-the-water-a-month-ago Twins could be a contender. Everyone, even the most die-hard fans, even your’s truly, had written them off this season. And yet—here we are. Its June twenty-sixth, and as Brett over at South Side Sox reminded me several times today, the Twins are 11.5 games back and hold a share of third place in the AL Central. Not normally circumstances under which you might suggest a team is going to overtake first place, but these are not ordinary circumstances.
First of all, the Twins of a month, or even two weeks ago are not the Twins you see today. In fact, the “starting nine” from opening day has rarely played together, and while the Twins are not yet at full strength, they are seeing a number of important players—led by Luis Arraez and Max Kepler—return from the injured list. At the same time, guys like Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Nick Gordon have gotten their MLB bearings, and started to see some time spent together as a team. The results of this shift have been fairly obvious on the scoreboard, as the Twins have won seven of their last ten games, including a pivotal series victory over Cleveland earlier today.
The Twins next fourteen games are all against AL Central foes, allowing them to gain a lot of ground quickly. Even more importantly, half these games are against Chicago, who is currently leading the division, and these games couldn’t have come at a better time.
For as hot as the Twins have been lately, the Sox have been cold. Ice-freaking-cold. The Sox have won only three of their last seven, including dropping their most recent series. I asked Brett, who is one of the few Sox fans I actually like, or even tolerate, whats going on, and basically, they have been suffering the same fate the Twins faced over the first couple months of the season—most of their regulars are hurt, and the rest are underperforming. As anyone who has been paying attention to the 2021 Twins (and I don’t blame you if you haven’t been) knows, this is a recipe for notgoodthings.
Chicago’s injured list includes Adam Engel, Billy Hamilton, Adam Eaton, Eloy Jimenez (RIP,) Nick Madrigal, Luis Robert, and pitchers Michael Kopech and Jace Fry. Jose Abreu is also nursing a day-to-day injury. You might basically sum up this list as “Chicago’s future,” as all the players that we were told would be difference makers seem to be out indefinitely. There are like six outfielders alone on that list—a level of frustration very recognizable to Twins’ fans.
Most of those guys aren’t expected to be back any time soon, either, leaving the door cracked open for the Twins in the next two weeks. With a four-gamer kicking off in Chicago tomorrow, three in Kansas City, and then three-games at homes against Chicago and four with Detroit to follow, the Twins needs are simple—win more than you lose, and hope the Sox do the opposite. If the Twins can simply split the first series, and win the other three, that leaves them at 9-5 over that stretch, and 42-48 overall. Its not a great record by any means, but in a historically bad division, its a place to be. Two more wins, and it swings to 44-46, while a 13-1 stretch would flip things to the positive side of .500, at 46-44.
Asking Chicago to keep losing might be a stretch, as their non-Twins opponents are the Tigers and Orioles, for three games each. If the Twins were to take four-of-seven from the Sox, and each of Detroit and Baltimore take one game, that leaves Chicago at 52-38, and leave the Twins in a tough position. A little help starts to make it easier, but the Twins pick up the most ground by helping themselves—if the Twins win all seven games against the Sox, and Baltimore and Detroit can each win one, then Chicago is 49-41, while the Twins would be 45-45 if they win the rest of their series.
The AL Central is not a good division right now. The White Sox lead at .584, and as noted, have not won a lot, nor does it look good for them to turn it around in the short term. The only other team above .500 is Cleveland, who has been bitten hard by the injury bug as well, and just dropped a series to the Twins. Detroit and Kansas City are just-as-bad as the Twins are, yet have far fewer reasons for hope.
The Twins, barring an utter miracle, won’t be in first place at the All Star Break (if they win every game, and the Sox lose every game between now and then, Chicago would be 45-45 while Minnesota is 47-43.) With three struggling division opponents on the schedule though, the Twins could gain a big chunk of ground and be back in the thick of a division race. The White Sox are scuffling lately, and this is the moment to take advantage.
On the flip side, if the Twins don’t take full advantage of this stretch, its time to pack it in—its now or never.
Has hope returned?
This poll is closed
Yes! The Twins are playoff-bound!
Yes, but the Twins will crush it again, because Minnesota Sports
No, and I can’t be hurt this way