As of Sunday morning the Twins sit just a game back in a tight race with the AL West to see who will occupy the final AL Wildcard spot, with a trip to the Bronx likely on the line (we’ll cross that bridge if/when we get there). The majority of self-respecting Twins fans could not have anticipated such a huge turnaround in the first year of the Paul Molitor era, having forgotten in recent seasons the feeling of playing meaningful September baseball.
Minnesota has had a bizarre season. An incredible 20 win May was followed by a terrible June (11 wins) and an equally shambolic July (12 wins). Through August 19th the Twins had managed just 6 wins in the month and were at risk at falling out of contention altogether, having had the second best record in the AL at the All Star break. Enter Miguel Sano. Sano has helped propel Minnesota back to contention, being a significant factor in the Twins going 14-7 in their last 21 games.
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The Twins August surge coincided with a similar one from ‘Pelotero’, in which he raked a .278/.377/.629 line, with 9 HR and 26 RBI in just 27 August games. Sano has been sputtering in the last few weeks, battling a balky hamstring on the way to a .194 September average in which he has struck out in over half his plate appearances. It is only through seeing Sano’s numbers stacked up against the rest of the Twins lineup, that we can see how much of an impact his bat has had on the Twins success in the last month and a half and just how much the teams’ hopes may rest on his shoulders.
Since the All-Star break much of the heart of the Twins lineup has gone missing:
Player A First Half: .259/.320/.449 11 HR 46 RBI
Player A Second Half: .229/.293/.436 9 HR 31 RBI
Player B First Half: .256/.328/.513 19 HR 50 RBI
Player B Second Half: .208/.286/.376 8 HR 20 RBI
Player C First Half: .257/.312/.444 14 HR 49 RBI
Player C Second Half: .192/.247/.308 4 HR 16 RBI
Despite the reduced power number being explained by a smaller sample size in the second half, it is undeniable that several key bats in the Twins lineup have struggled to replicate strong numbers from the first half. Sano has certainly picked up some of the slack, giving the Twins a .272/.387/.574 slash line, 16 HR, 43 RBI and a WAR of 2.0 through his first 59 games.
After Sunday, 15 of the Twins remaining 19 games are against divisional opposition, with 13 at home, and just 3 against the Royals – the only other divisional opponent with a record of above .500. With the Astros and Rangers set to meet 7 times before the end of the season, in addition to series with the Angels, who refuse to go away in the Wild Card hunt, the Twins are nicely positioned for their first post-season berth since 2010. Much of their hopes will rest on the shoulders, and bat, of Miguel Sano.