You know, midseason, when pretty much all of the AL Central was struggling and the Twins were staying above water only barely, it may have been easy to call them the weakest division leader in baseball. But right now, they only have 4 less wins than the Astros. Because while the Astros have been in the midst of a three-man battle for first that they can't always stay fully ahead of, the Twins have been rolling all month. Since their lackluster performance in Philly, the Twins are 21-14, at 81 wins, and are headed towards a division finish that, while it's been theirs for a while, is finally looking pretty earned.
What has helped is that, in the absence of Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa, a lot of the guys who were struggling in the first half are now pulling their weight finally. The biggest of these is Max Kepler, who had a miserable start but is now hitting .254 with 60 RBIs and a team-leading 22 homers. It is a little sad that, 4 years after bomba-gate, it only takes 22 long balls to lead the Twins, but this is a different Twins team, relying more on contact and pitching than out-homering everybody. Michael Taylor is similarly a great RBI producer, with 47, and has 20 home runs. We're gonna just scooch over the fact that they've been here all season and Royce Lewis has 15 homers in 59 games, but the important thing is that there is offensive production now. Even some of the fringe guys, like Edouard Julien, Willi Castro, Matt Wallner and Alex Kiriloff have been impressing at the plate. With the amount of marquee guys that have fallen this year, it's nice that some of the younger depth choices are making up for it without overexerting themselves.
And it's a good thing the lineup is proving themselves, because, aside from Lopez and Gray, the rotation, and pitching in general, is looking a lot more human. Joe Ryan's been beaten up a bit since returning from the IL. Kenta Maeda is still capable of great stuff but has a 4.28 ERA and is 6-7. Even the bullpen is a little rustier than they were, with even Dylan Floro not producing as well as usual. It's not great when the pitching and the hitting can't sync up, and that half the season is spent waiting for the other to get good while hoping the one that was already good holds on.
The Twins, even as a division leader, have the opportunity to be a postseason spoiler. Odds are they will be matched with an AL West team, be it the Rangers or the fallen Astros, in the first rung of the playoffs. It would honestly be amazing if the Twins somehow outdo the competition, as they haven't won a playoff series in over two decades, and haven't even won a playoff GAME since 2004. It'd be an amazing outcome because practically no one would expect it, especially the AL West gang.
They just have to earn it, like they have many other things this year.
Coming Tomorrow- He came over from New York and promptly upped his team's offensive production overnight.