All teams, even the very good ones, go through ups and downs over the course of a major-league season. The 2010 Twins have been a model for this truism; they came out of the gates fast with a blistering hot start, fell into a lull of mediocrity in the middle months, and now seem to be regaining momentum here after the All-Star break.
The Twins limped into the baseball season's unofficial midpoint, having lost six of their last eight while dropping into third place in the AL Central. They went on to lose their first game after the break at home against the White Sox, but since then they have gone 17-6, keeping pace with the similarly scalding South-Siders and claiming their stake in what is shaping up to be an intense two-team race over the final eight weeks of the season.
Sometimes you can learn more about the state of a team from their losses than their wins. It's important to note that of the Twins' six losses during the aforementioned span, five of them have been decided by two runs or less. Even when they're coming out on the short end, the Twins are playing well and forcing close games. You can't ask for much more.
It's not hard to see why the Twins have been able to right the ship so abruptly. Their schedule has been exceedingly easy over the past few weeks, with a four-game series in Tampa representing their only break in a parade of last and second-to-last place teams. But in the past the Twins have been accused of letting up against lesser opponents (late September series against the Royals come to mind) and the impressive stretch also includes three wins against the White Sox and a hotly contested split against the Rays. They've also been doing it all without the services of their best hitter, and with injuries forcing Drew Butera and Alexi Casilla into the lineup far more than expected.
With the White Sox losing to the Orioles yesterday, the Twins drew to within a half-game of first place. By the time the Sox and Twins square off at U.S. Cellular Field tomorrow night, the two teams could be knotted atop the division.
Sure, the Twins haven't always played up to their level of ability this year and the rough patches have been frustrating. But there's hardly anything better than a bunch of meaningful baseball games in September with playoff-like intensity. That's what we seem headed for.
Should be fun.