The Twins went into Wednesday night with a magic number of two and a four-game lead over the Indians in the AL Central. They weren’t in real danger of losing the thing, but it’s always better to clinch early and get a few days of rest for the regulars while being able to set the rotation for the divisional round.
Thanks to a Twins 5-1 (box score) win in Detroit and Indians 8-3 (box score) loss to the White Sox, the clinch has happened. The Twins are the American League Central champions for the first time since 2010. The Indians were heavy favorites to win the division when the season started, but the Twins nearly went wire to wire in the lead here. Starting April 20, the Twins were either tied or in first place the rest of the way, building a lead as big as 11 1/2 games.
It was certainly worrisome when the Indians erased said 11 1/2 game deficit by tying things up both on Aug. 9 and Aug. 11, but the Twins steadied and stayed mentally tough, going 27-13 down the stretch since then.
The win Wednesday was the Twins’ 98th of the season. They were 78-84 last season, so it’s been quite the turnaround here under the watch of first-year manager Rocco Baldelli.
The Twins got here in large part via power. Prior to this season, no team had ever hit more than 267 home runs. The Twins right now are tied with the Yankees at 299 on the season.
- The Twins have 11 players in double digits in home runs. Only three teams have ever had more and two of them (Yankees, Blue Jays) are from this season. The 2018 Yankees are the other.
- The Twins have nine players with at least 15 homers. That ties this season’s Blue Jays for the most ever.
- They have eight players with at least 20 homers. That’s an MLB record.
- They have five players with at least 30 homers. That’s an MLB record.
- Nelson Cruz joins Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds as the only 39-plus year old players to ever hit 40 homers. And he’s only played in 118 games!
They have had problems in the rotation and at the back-end of the bullpen, though, so those problems need to go away if they wish to have a deep playoff run. They are set to play either the powerhouse Yankees or powerhouse Astros in the ALDS.
For now, though, the Twins can party it up and start resting for a possible deep October run. It’s been a while since they had one. They have gone 0-10 in postseason games in their last four trips to October, and have gone seven playoff series without advancing, after an ALDS win in 2002. The Twins haven’t made the World Series since winning it all in 1991.