Saturday, Aug. 31 - Now the lead is 4 1/2 games after the Twins blasted Detroit 13-5 and Tampa Bay, in a race for a wild card spot, shut out Cleveland 4-0. Kyle Gibson threw 107 pitches in only five innings (35 the first inning) but managed to raise his record to 13-6 as the Twins recorded their second six-game winning streak of the season. A three-run homer by C.J. Cron got the Twins to within five homers of the MLB record of 267 set by the Yankees in 2018. Their 4 1/2-game lead over the Indians is the team's largest since July 16. Eddie Rosario (91), Nelson Crux (88) and Max Kepler (87) all have a shot at 100 RBIs. Kepler (35) and Cruz (33) are over 30 in homers and have a chance for 40 with 28 games to go, while Rosario (27) and Miguel Sano (26) have a chance for 30. Mitch Garver has 24 but doesn't play on a regular basis, although his frequency of one homer per 10.9 at-bats is far and away the best on the team.
Sunday, Sept. 1 — The lead still at 4 1/2 games even though the Twins lost to lowly Detroit, 10-7, but Tampa Bay beat Cleveland again. The big news, of course, was that the Twins hit six home runs and set a new MLB record of 268. Astounding to me was that Rocco Baldelli let Martin Perez stay out there for a seven-run inning that put the Twins down 8-2. With the Twins having the offense they do, why would he do that? Perez should have been out of the game when it was 6-2. The Twins were 17-10 in August, the same record they had in April and May.
Monday, Sept. 2 — Lead now 5 1/2 games as Twins beat Detroit 8-3 on Sunday while Tampa Bay swept its series with the Indians. The win came on a day when the Twins had 11 singles and a double and still won, a day after the Twins hit six home runs and lost. It's the beautiful part of baseball. The double by Luis Arraez kept the team's streak alive at 90 games of getting at least one extra-base hit. Byron Buxton made a cameo appearance on defense in the ninth, as did Brusdar Graterol, the 21-year-old who is the team's top pitching prospect. He had a scoreless inning but gave up two hits and a walk, hitting 100 mph with one pitch after throwing one at 103.8 in the minors in August. Meanwhile, Jake Cave is hitting.383 in his last 19 games as he has played nearly every day with Byron Buxton on the injured list. Winning pitcher Michael Pineda (11-5) has been very good lately
Tuesday, Sept. 3 — Lead is 5 1/2 games. The Twins stole one from Detroit yesterday, getting two runs in the eighth for a 4-3 win after trailing much of the game. The relievers were great again - they've been solid lately. Ehire Adrianza, of all people, homered for the first time in 100 days and that's the only homer the past two days. But it was an important one and then Max Kepler had a two-out, two-run single for the other two runsin the eighth inning. Four relievers pitched four scoreless innings, including one by Tyler Duffey in which he struck out the side in his 15th consecutive appearance without giving up a run. The Twins made it a little more interesting than it needed to be by leaving 10 runners on base. It was the 27th come-from-behind win of the season.
Wednesday, Sept. 4 — Lead now 6 1/2 games. Remember Monday, Aug. 12? That was the day the Indians, with the Twins idle that day, won and took a half-game lead on the Twins. Since then, counting the 6-5 win at Fenway Park last night, the Twins are 15-5 and the Indians are 8-12. Boston stopped a streak of six straight games with 10 or more hits by the Twins but an early 6-0 lead, and some good relief pitching, sealed the deal. Taylor Rogers gave up a homer in the eighth but struck out Rafael Devers with a runner on third to end the game. Devers,having a great year with 107 RBIs, hit a three-run homer earlier to get the Red Sox back in the game after the 6-0 lead that included homers by Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano, Sano's blast estimated a 452 feet. It was the Twins' 47th win on the road this year, the most in all of baseball. Jake Cave contributed again with a two-run triple in the second inning that made it 3-0. It might be a little early but some are starting to throw around the magic number thing. The magic number is 18 - any combination of Minnesota wins and Cleveland losses totaling 18 would give the Twins the division. Maybe easier to understand is that if the Twins go 11-13 the rest of the way, the Indians would have have to post a record of 18-5 to beat them.
Thursday, Sept. 5— Lead back to 5 1/2 games as Twins loset 6-2 in Boston and Cleveland hung on for an 8-6 win at home over Chicago. For those interested in the magic number — I'm not, it's too early — it didn't change. Jose Berrios, who has an ERA of 5.37 since the All-Star break, had a couple good innings after giving up two homers for a 4-0 deficit after two innings. But these are the facts: Five innings last night, six runs, 101 pitches, and in his six starts in August and September he is 1-3 with an ERA of 8.07. His record since June 6 (90 days), when he was 8-2, is 3-6.That can only be classified as a horrible three months. So help me, if Rocco Baldelli classifies that as a bump in the road . . . Why say that? The other day Jake Odorizzi threw 91 pitches in only five innings and gave up three runs. That's a 5.40 ERA for that game and Baldelli said the next day that Odorizzi "pitched well." That's not my idea of pitching well. He either is Mr. Optimistic or he sugarcoats things with regularity - that's my take. I agree with ex-Twin great Jim Kaat that it was a bad idea to give Berrops an extra day of rest - now he won't be able to pitch against Cleveland this weekend. Then again, maybe that's a good thing. On more thing (and I like Willians Astudillo - he's a great story): A Twins broadcaster said during the game last night that Astudillo is "a hitting machine" after he got a hit. I checked and he's hitting .264. If he's a hitting machine, what does that make Polanco, Arraez, Cruz and Rosario, all hitting well above .264?
Friday, Sept. 6 30 — Lead back to 6 1/2 games. There's an old, old saying, usually referred to about football games, that offense sells tickets and defense wins games. That was the case in a 2-1 win over Boston at storied Fenway Park last night. Eddie Rosario made a unbelievable throw from left field to gun down what would have been the tying run on a play that ended the game. But it wasn't just that play.There were at least four other very good plays on defense by the Twins, especially Jake Cave's diving catch in center field as the Twins won for the 18th time in their last 23 road games. And there were three more scoreless innings by the bullpen, a bullpen that has a 2.15 ERA the past three weeks. The Twins were again iffy with the bases loaded, and they hit into four double plays — but pitching and defense won the game, Martin Perez getting his 10th win of the season, giving the team five pitchers with double-figure wins. Add that result to a 7-1 loss by Cleveland and it was a good day for the Twins, Willians Astudillo knocking in the tie-breaking run with a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning. And now comes the Cleveland series. One note:A couple callers to the post-game radio show Tuesday night said they didn't think the Twins could win the division unless Byron Buxton was playing. I've been hoping he could return to the lineup. But they're 21-11 (.656) without him throughout the month of August and a few days in September.