It was fun times in Cleveland on Monday night for the Minnesota Twins. Less than a week after dropping two of three to the Guardians, Minnesota opened its final series of the season against Cleveland with a 20-6 route.
From Royce Lewis hitting another grand slam to Jorge Polanco and Joey Gallo both homering, everything went right for the Twins. It was the polar opposite of what we saw out of the team last week when a bad series against Cleveland lulled the Guardians into a false sense of bravado — something that was reflected during a surprise waiver wire spree.
After Cleveland took two of three from Minnesota, the Guardians claimed three top additions to the waiver wire in what was no doubt a show of force.
The only force that was shown on Monday, though, was the Twins bats shelling Lucas Giolito and battering Cleveland so badly that it waved the white flag as early as the sixth innning. That’s when Terry Francona turned to using position players rather than continue to dip into his bullpen.
A 14-run victory is the way the Twins are beginning a crucial series against Cleveland that will likely decide the AL Central race. The Guardians were five games back at the start of the night and could have closed the gap to two games with a sweep. Instead, the Twins lead is up to six games and could balloon to as many as eight if things go their way.
That means now more than ever an AL Central title is well within sight for Minnesota.
What is the Twins magic number?
Minnesota’s win on Labor Day gives the team a six game lead over Cleveland, but the work is hardly done. Dick Bremer kept saying during the broadcast how the Twins couldn’t take any of the runs scored over to another game, and the same is true of the division lead.
While the Twins have a sizable lead, it’s not a done deal.
There are still 24 game left in the regular season, which means the Twins magic number sits at 19 after destroying the Guardians on Monday night. If Minnesota can manage a series sweep, the division lead will grow to eight games and the Twins magic number will shrink to 15 with just 22 games left.
If that happens, it will mean the Twins will have essentially checkmated Cleveland for the division title. Each game Minnesota wins that is coupled with a Cleveland loss subtracts two from the magic number, where a single win only subtracts one.
Minnesota doesn’t control its own destiny for sneaking into the No. 2 seed, but that’s still a possibility. Seattle and Houston are about six games better that the Twins at the moment. That means there’s a chance Minnesota can catch the AL West division winner and find a way to avoid having to play in the Wild Card.
As far as punching a playoff ticket goes, the Guardians need a miracle to comeback and win the AL Central and Twins fans can begin counting down the games until a division title is clinched.