August 30, 2004
Little Ground Lost and Eyeing the Finish Line
It wasn't the greatest weekend for the Twins, as they dropped two out of three to the Angels, but it was a safe weekend because they lost just one game off their lead in the American League Central standings, as Cleveland and Chicago split their four-game series.
I keep re-figuring this in my head after every game because it makes me feel better about winning the division, so I might as well share it with you: If the Twins play .500 baseball for the rest of the season, the Indians would have to go 22-8 (.733) to catch them, while the White Sox would have to go 25-9 (.735).
That might sound a little too possible at first, but you have to remember that the Twins, once they finish up their three-game series with the Rangers that starts tomorrow, are pretty much done with the difficult portion of their schedule. After weeks and weeks of playing all of the AL playoff contenders, they host Kansas City following the Texas series, before heading to Baltimore and Detroit.
Their remaining schedule looks like this:
7 vs. Cleveland
6 vs. Chicago
6 vs. Baltimore
4 vs. Detroit
3 vs. Texas
3 vs. Kansas City
3 vs. New York
The seven games left against Cleveland (all in the final two weeks of the season) and six left against Chicago mean the Twins aren't going to put this completely out of reach at any point, but it's going to take a major collapse down the stretch for them to avoid a third straight division title.
Incidentally, I think what the Twins have been able to do over the last month or so, facing by far the toughest portion of their schedule, is very impressive. Starting on July 26, they have played 32 games, with all but three of them being against New York, Boston, Oakland, Anaheim, Texas, Cleveland and Chicago. During that stretch (which has three games against Texas remaining), they've gone 18-14.
All they need to do now is find about a dozen wins left in that schedule.
On a somewhat related note, the Twins have called up their top prospect, Jason Kubel, who I wrote about here last week. This might seem surprising, since rosters don't expand to 40 until September 1, but this move was made a couple days early in order for Kubel to be eligible for the playoff roster.
Which, incidentally, lends a little credence to my theory that the Twins think of Kubel a lot like they thought of Joe Mauer, which is to say a little higher than they thought of guys like Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Lew Ford. All of which means I'm still holding out hope that Kubel, and not Jacque Jones, will be their Opening Day rightfielder in 2005.
New article at The Hardball Times: Wrapping Up the Weekend
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