The Minnesota Twins lost two out of the last three games to the Cleveland Guardians but were handed a third straight loss on Thursday.
Earlier in the week the Los Angeles Angels bowed out of the playoff race but did so by tossing things into utter chaos. The team waived four players it acquired to help make a push for October, all of whom are guys who can be key additions for teams still in the race.
It was an unexpected flood of lottery tickets to the open market for contending teams, of which the Twins are one. Thanks to their inability to put the Guardians away this week, Cleveland also remains a contender and both had it's cake and ate it right in front of Minnesota's face on Thursday.
There were three targets the Twins could have likely used to help bolster their roster for a playoff push and beyond -- Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Matt Moore.
Cleveland claimed and was awarded all three.
The waiver claims are a direct shot at the Twins and meant to put the team on notice. Cleveland is still trailing in the AL Central, but is only five games back with one more series left against the Twins. Fans in Minnesota don't need to be reminded of how things went last season when the Guardians flipped the script on a close race in September and ran away with a division title.
Minnesota is a much better team this year than it was during that meltdown last year, but that's not making anyone feel less nervous. Wednesday loss was particularly gutting, as the Twins spoiled another gem by Sonny Gray after Jhoan Duran forgot where the strike zone was in the ninth inning.
How will Twins losing key waiver claims to Cleveland impact AL Central?
It's still a steep uphill climb for the Guardians to win the division, even with the boost of unexpected resources becoming available. Assuming the Twins go 14-14 the rest of the way, Cleveland would need to finish the season 19-9 to catch Minnesota and take over the division lead.
Cleveland has games left against Baltimore, San Francisco, Texas, and Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, Minnesota has very winnable series against the White Sox, Angels, A's, and Rockies. Both the Twins and Guardians see each other for one more series, but the difference is bigger than those three games There aren't a lot of ways that Cleveland closes the gap short of a total meltdown by the Twins.
If the Twins lose the AL Central, it won't be because Cleveland claimed Giolito, Moore, and Lopez; Something else will have to go horribly wrong.
For the Twins, this is less about the Guardians catching them in the division and more about missing out on players that might have leveled them up in postseason. Despite how much is stinks that the Twins got skunked on waiver claims and the Guardians are the reason why, their season is still likely going to end in October -- the only question is in which part.
There's enough talent already in-house to help the team break its postseason drought, but it would have been nice if they'd been able to take advantage of unexpected help.