On Wednesday afternoon the Cleveland Guardians won the season series over the Minnesota Twins with a 2-1 victory. It’s likely little more than a death rattle, though, as the win merely reduced Minnesota’s lead in the AL Central to six games, with just over twenty games left in the season.
Despite the loss, Minnesota outscored Cleveland 29-11 over the course of the series. It was a show of force that all but delivered the knockout blow that will ultimately decide the division title, although the Guardians mathematically remain alive for the time being.
Minnesota had the chance to widen its lead in the division to eight games, but instead finishes the series with a six game lead. It’s still a significant gap for the Guardians to close, especially with series against the Giants, Reds, and Rangers — all teams fighting for their postseason lives. Cleveland also has a series against Baltimore, the best team in the American League, while Minnesota has much softer matchups against Oakland, Colorado, and the Mets.
It would have been nice to finish the season series against Cleveland with a sweep, but a message was still sent and it seems to be only a matter of time before the Twins clinch the AL Central.
What is the Minnesota Twins magic number? (Updated September 12th)
Update (9/12) - The Twins magic number is down to 11
The loss was a less than ideal way to finish both this current series and the season series against Cleveland, but it does little to damage to the big picture. Minnesota came into the game with a magic number of 17, which is where it remains after the 2-1 loss on Wednesday afternoon.
Cleveland is technically still alive in the division race, but their chances are the same as the armless knight in Monty Python. Twins fans shouldn’t celebrate a division title prematurely, but a more interesting race seems to be for the No. 2 seed in the American League playoff picture.
Right now the Twins are about six games behind the Houston Astros, who lead the AL West with the second-best record among division leaders. Should the Twins catch them — or the Mariners or Rangers, depending on how things play out — it would mean clinching a first-round bye in October.
Only the third-best division winner needs to play in the Wild Card round, and the Twins are well within striking distance of landing that bye. Barring a significant and historic meltdown, the Twins will be playing postseason baseball one way or another, it’s just a matter of when and against whom.