Remember when the 2017 Minnesota Twins led the Indians in late June?
The Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians were essentially even on June 25th. Things have certainly changed!
The Minnesota Twins led the American League Central for much of the first half of the season, with 43 games spent in first place in the first half. As the clock wound to July and the upcoming All-Star game, the Twins and Indians squared off for a 3-game set.
The Twins came into the series in a bad spot. The team was coming off a 11-game home stand where they went 4-7, including being swept in a 4-game set with the Indians at Target Field June 16-18. The Indians had opened the season playing fairly mediocre baseball but were now picking up steam, returning themselves from an 8-game road trip where they’d won 7 of 8 and found themselves going from 2 games back of the Twins to 2.5 games ahead of them.
In the first game, the Minnesota Twins sent rookie left-handed starter Adalberto Mejia to the mound to face Indians righty Trevor Bauer. Mejia struggled to spot the ball, but he consistently worked his way out of jams, and the bullpen hurled 4 scoreless innings while the offense put up 4 runs in the 2nd inning in a 5-0 win to move 1.5 games back. Jorge Polanco hit a home run in the game.
The second game featured Indians ace starter Corey Kluber, who went 7 innings and struck out 13. However, the Twins were able to score 2 runs in the first inning, then get a pair of home runs to win the game, first by Brian Dozier off of Indians closer Cody Allen and then Chris Gimenez off of Indians reliever Zach McAllister in the 9th to secure a 4-2 win and move within a half game of the division lead.
The last game of the 3-game set was a brilliant pitching job by Ervin Santana to earn his 10th win of the season in a 4-0 victory. Eddie Rosario hit a home run, Jason Castro had a pair of doubles, and Joe Mauer had a pair of hits, including a double. Santana had 7 strikeouts over 6 innings, allowing no walks and scattering 9 hits. Buddy Boshers and Brandon Kintzler combined for 3 perfect innings with 2 strikeouts. The Twins moved into first place by a half game, the last time they would be in first place on the 2017 season.
On the series, the Twins outscored the Indians 13-2 with tremendous pitching being the key to the victories.
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Since that series
Cleveland finished off June with a 4-game set with the Texas Rangers, taking 3 out of 4 and moving back into first place by a half game going into July. Since that point, the Indians have gone 51-21, an insane .708 winning percentage. The Indians have had a positive run differential of over 100 runs, scoring 297 runs while allowing 182 runs.
Three of the keys to the Indians lineup have been on a tear since that series. Francisco Lindor finished the series hitting .251/.313/.474 on the season. Since that series, Lindor has hit .306/.364/.549 with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 16 home runs, and 11 stolen bases. Carlos Santana had been moved down in the lineup due to his early season struggles, hitting .222/.327/.380 at the end of that June series. Since then, he’s gone .316/.426/.586 with 20 doubles and 14 home runs. One of the early season bright spots was Jose Ramirez, who was hitting .321/.375/.567 at the time, but even he has been hitting off the charts, going .306/.360/.586 with 26 doubles, 15 home runs, and 7 stolen bases.
Since that series, the Minnesota Twins have certainly not been “bad”, going 39-38. The team finished off June with by losing 3 of 4 against the Red Sox before dropping the first game of a set against the Royals, then proceeded to go 10-15 in July, which required the monster month of August that they had in order to work back into the Wild Card spot.
Next: Twins Fans Respond to Minor Moves
The crazy part has been how the Twins lineup has responded since that day. Here’s a group of the guys and where they were to where they are now:
- Brian Dozier – (6/26) .250/.341/.446; (since) .267/.350/.507, 10 2B, 18 HR
- Joe Mauer – (6/26) .285/.357/.402; (since) .327/.410/.444, 18 2B
- Jorge Polanco – (6/26) .250/.300/.358; (since) .251/.311/.444,
17 2B, 8 HR, 7 SB
- Eddie Rosario – (6/26) .280/.318/.471; (since) .307/.343/.558,
21 2B, 16 HR, 7 SB
- Byron Buxton – (6/26) .202/.277/.296; (since) .310/.358/.557,
6 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR, 13 SB
The Twins will hope to ride that improved depth of lineup as they take on the Yankees this week and the Indians next week, hopefully with a similar result to that June series!