by JACK KEWITSCH
Welcome back to postseason baseball, Twins fans! Back-to-back American League Central championships have the Twins looking like a perennial pick to make it to October ... at least for the next few seasons. Yes, the Twins arguably backed into the playoffs thanks to the White Sox implosion. But let’s not forget the Twins have been playing well heading into the playoffs, recording an American League-best 16-8 record in September and an MLB-best 24-7 record at home during the season.
This team is built to at least make it this far. Anything less would have been a disappointment. Yet injuries and the occasional struggle across the board made it seem like it was not meant to be. Yet here we are, set to face off against the Houston Asterisks, I mean Astros, in the opening round. By the time you read this, the Twins could have already advanced to the Divisional Round. With the opening round being only three games, albeit all at Target Field, the Twins have minimal room for error before heading to the playoff bubble.
You may look at the Astros and view this as the best possible scenario for the Twins and that is hard to argue. The Astros went 29-31 during the regular season, scooping up the six-seed due to the American League West being beyond weak outside the Oakland Athletics. The Astros even saw massive declines from players across the board, going from an OPS+ (where 100 is league average) of 117.5 in 2019 to 94 this year.
While the Astros did have a slew of injuries to key players such as Yordan Alvarez, Roberto Osuna, and most importantly Justin Verlander alongside the fallout from their cheating scandal, this team is still dangerous. Yes, the Twins avoided the dreaded Yankees and having to face-off against the Indians or White Sox again, yet considering this series a lock solely based off playing a middling Astros team is a slippery slope.
Everything is reset come playoff time. Everyone is playing with the same mindset: win the World Series. Records and statistics may give insight into how a series may play out, but time and again we have seen that thrown out the window. You don’t even have to go that far back. Just last year, the Washington Nationals were left for dead at the 60-game mark before tearing it up in the second half and miraculously winning it all, over the Astros.
Approach this upcoming series with series with some caution. Although the Astros struggled this year, they have enough seasoned playoff veterans to make some noise. The Twins? They have some, but not nearly to the extent Houston does. Even having the first two games being played at 1 p.m. and noon must have some fans worried. Is MLB trying to keep the Astros under the radar? Do they think the Twins are not good enough? We will likely never know, but that cannot play into this team’s thought process.
The Twins are good enough to win and they should. This is one of the best lineups and pitching staffs, statistically, the Twins have had make a postseason since the turn of the century, with a heavy emphasis on the starting rotation and pitching staff, two ingredients oftentimes crucial to a team making it deep into October. Thankfully, the lack of fear surrounding the Astros compared to the Yankees should have the Twins, and fans, feeling confident, as the Twins have all the ingredients coming together at the same time to overcome past demons.
As I mentioned last week, I hope I am writing to you in good spirits as the Twins have beat the Astros and advanced to face either the White Sox or Athletics. It is a fun time to be a Twins fan. Everything fell into place on the last day of the season for them to have a more ideal matchup. Now, it is time to capitalize and show the baseball world that the Twins mean business, whether it is in a pandemic-shortened season or a normal one. Now is the time.