The best possible outcome
It was clear to everyone paying attention that the Twins would need to play well on their most recent road trip to contend for a spot in the playoffs. As it turns out, "play well" doesn't begin to describe the last six games, five of which the Twinks won. Their sweep (yes!) of the White Sox pulls them into a three-way tie for the Wild Card.
The Twins aren't just playing well: Right now, they're the best team in baseball.
Sweeping the White Sox in their own town is about as sweet a way to finish a road trip as I can imagine, one I didn't really consider possible considering Wednesday's Buehrle/Silva mismatch. Sure enough, Silva continued to struggle a bit with his trademark sinker, but other than that the Twins' three games in the South Side couldn't have gone better. And not just because they won. A few other reasons to be excited about the future:
1. Morneau and Mauer connected for clutch homeruns against lefties. At this time last year, both hitters were panned for their inability to hit southpaws. Any worry of that can now be disregarded as pre-2006 thinking. The M n' M have definitely arrived.
2. Bartlett's three-run homer and stellar defensive play saved Tuesday's game. Remember Juan Castro? Yeah, me neither.
3. The Twins proved early in the season that they can win in the Dome, but their road troubles have haunted them all year. They entered this series with one of the worst road records in baseball, a fact that seemed to damn them to a losing season. The fact that these last two series wins have come on the road is perhaps the best news of all. Is there a better sound in all of sport than Chicago fans booing their own team?
4. Radke continued to pitch like the Radke of old, proving that he really is a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. If he keeps it up, the Twins' trio of Santana-Liriano-Radke is a readymade postseason combo. Problem is, in order to get to the postseason they're going to need five starters, and Silva, Baker, Lohse and Bonser have all proved incapable of filling those holes. The good news is that 2005 first-round draft pick Matt Garza just tossed a three-hit, complete-game shutout for the Rochester Redwings, spurring rumors that he's ready to be called up. Barring a significant trade, that might be the Twins' only option.
5. The White Sox scored 11 runs over the series, all of them on homeruns. I'm not about to say that teams that rely on homeruns aren't likely to win games. But it sure is nice when they don't.
The Twins carry their momentum into a homestand this weekend against the major leagues' winningest team, the Tigers. See you at the Dome!