Last week, Minnesota Twins fans were going to a dark place. After a brutal six game losing streak, the team was sitting four games back from the Guardians and the playoffs were looking like an even tougher challenge. It’s taken just one weekend, but things have changed.
The Houston Astros beat the Twins senseless, but that made sense. With the Twins roster decimated by injuries, they weren’t anywhere close to the talent that the Astros boasted. The Rangers series was disheartening, and with the offense struggling, the team needed more.
The Minnesota Twins’ series against the San Francisco Giants set up the big September Push.
Well, the Twins seemed to figure something out when the Giants came to town this week, as the team swept San Fran out of the state. How did a team that had struggled so mightily on offense put together such an impressive set of games where they outscored their opponent 20-5?
We’ll start with Friday night. The Twins had scored more than four ones just once in their last thirteen games and twice in the last nineteen days. What changed so drastically? Well for starters, Kyle Garlick came back.
Garlick is well-known as a lety-killer who has dominated left-handed hitters throughout his career, and the Twins had struggled against lefties throughout August. Garlick’s arrival immediately boosted things, as he went 3-4 with 3 runs, an RBI, and a homer from the leadoff spot.
The whole offense joined in on the fun then, with only Gio Urshela and Nick Gordon as the only starters failing to get a hit. On the mound, Joe Ryan was stellar, with six shutout innings and 8 strikeouts. Emilio Pagan and Michael Fulmer then combined for three shutout innings of two-hit ball to close it out. And it wasn’t just that they won, they seemed to have fun too.
The next night, the Twins offense stalled again. The team was hitting well until runners were in scoring position, going 0-8 with RISP through the first 8 innings. In the bottom of the ninth however, things changed.
After a Max Kepler walk, Gilberto Celestino grounded out and Gary Sanchez strikeout, the Twins were down 2-0 with two outs and runners on first and second. They were up against a dominant young closer in Camilo Doval. It seemed like the win from the night before was nothing more than a brief glimmer of hope. Then, the Twins put together some magic.
Carlos Correa singled in Kepler as part of a massive four hit night, and that was immediately followed by a Jake Cave single that put the Twins into the tenth inning. There, Correa made another huge play, getting the lead runner in the tenth before a bases loaded walk won the game for the Twins.
Yesterday, the Twins took the lead in the fifth, and the team just kept going from there, blasting the Giants pitching with another 8 runs and completing their first sweep of a non-AL Central team since the Oakland Athletics in early May.
In addition to the offense in general playing well, Correa in particular looked like a man on a mission. He finished the series going 8-12 with one walk, one double, one homer, four RBI, and zero strikeouts, while playing much sharper defense and looking like the $35.1 million dollar man the Twins want to see. He’ll be key to the team finding any kind of September and October success.
To make things even better for the Twins, the Guardians ceded ground. While the Twins swept their interleague matchup, the Guardians dropped two of three to the Seattle Mariners and the division lead fell to just two games, a slightly more manageable number (that might make all the difference).
As I’ve said before, the Twins aren’t done here yet. Kenta Maeda, Randy Dobnak, Tyler Mahle, and Bailey Ober are coming back on the mound. Trevor Larnach, Ryan Jeffers, and a rested Byron Buxton should join Kyle Garlick in providing juice with the bats. The Twins just need to get through this tough stretch until then with a manageable record to make some noise in the AL Central.
San Francisco is in the midst of a disappointing season, but the fact that the Minnesota Twins swept them so emphatically is cause for celebration. This was legitimately a *Giant* (pun intended) sweep for the team beginning the final push for the postseason.
If the team can steal two from a mediocre Boston Red Sox team and two more from a fading Chicago White Sox team, the Twins could easily see themselves tied for the division lead as early as September 4. The Guardians have to face the Baltimore Orioles and the Mariners again during that time, so it’s not hard to imagine them going 2-4 over that span against tough opponents.
The Minnesota Twins just have earn a game or two from the struggling New York Yankees before a massive three game series against Cleveland (Sep. 9-11) sets the tone for the final stretch. Get ready Twins fans, because this series has shown what a fun ride this could be.