After a five-minute pregame session with reporters, during which Gardenhire fielded questions about Hudson's wrist, Joe Mauer's swing, an increase in team errors, how he believes Trevor Plouffe and Danny Valencia are handling big-league at-bats and whether he senses the fan base is more fanatical this season, the annoyed manager stood up to leave and hollered, "Minnesota Twins! We're in first place, guys!"Gardenhire was right. The team is in first place. But they're hardly in the clear and there is legitimate reason for concern about their current status.
They're past Ubaldo Jimenez, but Twins actually just wrapped up a relatively light portion of their schedule. Eighteen of their past 24 games have been at home, and their only road series during that span came against a pair of sub-.500 teams: the Mariners and Athletics. While the Twins did have a few tough series mixed into their recent homestands -- including match-ups against the Yankees and Braves, who may be the best teams in their respective leagues -- they also had weaker opponents like the Brewers and Royals mixed in and they should be expecting to win at home against all comers.
Despite the soft patch in the schedule, the Twins emerge from this latest stretch of games with just a 1.5-game lead on the Tigers in the AL Central, and now they will have to run through a veritable gauntlet leading up to the All-Star break.
First, the Twins will open a National League road trip tonight in Philadelphia. After the weekend series with the Phillies, they'll head to Milwaukee for a three-game set before wrapping up with another weekend series on the East Coast against the Mets. After that nine-game tour of the NL is complete, the Twins will come home to face the Tigers, who are nipping at their tails in the division, and the Rays, who are tied with the Yankees atop the AL East. Then it's back on the road for three games against the powerful Blue Jays and three more against the Tigers.
And then it's the All-Star break, which will probably be welcomed because that is a tough stretch of 22 games with only two days off. Not one series among those mentioned is a "gimme," so the Twins are going to need to step their game up and start scoring some runs if Gardenhire still wants to be touting his first place Minnesota Twins when the All-Star Game comes around.