Photo: AP/Ron Schwane
Photo: AP/Ron Schwane
September 28, 2017 09:31 AM
A look at the 2017 Twins as they head to the postseason for the first time in seven seasons:
1. Dozier Non-Trade Helped Save Season
The team's new management under Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were prescient in their decision this past offseason to not trade second baseman Brian Dozier, who was coming off a career year with 42 home runs, 99 rbi and 104 runs scored.
The team had been close to trading Dozier to the Dodgers for pitching prospect Jose De Leon, but opted out reportedly because the Dodgers weren't willing to throw in another piece. Dozier has followed up his stellar 2016 season by notching 33 homers and 90 rbi while scoring 102 runs to date in 2017. Those totals include one of the biggest hits in his career, a Tuesday night home run in the eighth inning that put the Twins ahead of the Indians for good.
Meanwhile, De Leon was dealt to Tampa Bay, where he was limited to just 41 innings pitched between AAA and the big club in a season plagued by injuries.
2. Lineup is Potent
The Twins young lineup has taken another step this season, and from top to bottom is formidable. The team ranks fifth in the league in batting average and fourth in on-base percentage, a somewhat remarkable feat given the team's average age of 27.2, the league's second-youngest. The success is because, in part:
Joe Mauer has enjoyed a resurgence. Though the three-time batting champ's numbers have been down the past three seasons, he's been one of the league's hottest hitters since May. On the season, he's hitting .308, which is good for seventh in the league. Eddie Rosario has been on fire of late, Byron Buxton has come leaps and bounds from his early-season (and career) struggles, and Jorge Polanco, following a dismal June and July, has been outstanding. That's all notwithstanding that Eduardo Escobar has all but made fans forget that the team has been making its playoff push without slugger Miguel Sano, who's been injured (though don't rule out a potential Kirk Gibson-esque pinch-hitting appearance at some point if the team makes a decent playoff run).
3. Improved Pitching
In addition to ace Ervin Santana, the emergence of Jose Berrios and the late-resurgence of Kyle Gibson means the Twins actually have an imposing starting three to throw up against the Indians in a division series matchup, should the team make it there. Adalberto Mejia is a good back-of-the-rotation option with good stuff (when he can control it) who can also spell long relief in a playoff series.
And despite the team trading away closer Brandon Kintzler at the trade deadline, the bullpen has improved. Rookies Trevor Hildenberger and Alan Busenitz, while not lights-out, have been doing yeoman's work in bridging the gap to new closer, journeyman Matt Belisle, and all while playing meaningful baseball on a big stage in September.
4. Yankees Stuck in the Craw
That the Twins took two of three from the Bronx Bombers in July will not help them for a one-game playoff in New York on Tuesday (unless, by chance, the Yankees overtake the Red Sox and send the Twins to Boston). The Yankees most-recent example of the team's longtime dominance over the Twins occurred only a week ago, when they swept Minnesota at Yankee Stadium in a three-game set.
The Twins are 31-78 against the Yankees over the past 15 seasons – that's a winning percentage of .284. The Twins have gone 2-12 against the pinstripes in four divisional series since 2003. But, hey, this is a one-game playoff. All bets are off (he says, sweating).
5. Major League History
By now you've heard it a number of times: the 2017 Twins are now the first team in the world series era to lose more than 100 games one season before making the playoffs the next.
Regardless of what happens in New York on Tuesday, Twins fans (ideally) have enjoyed an entire season of major league baseball for the first time since 2010. They've watched the standings each night after having watched their team play meaningful baseball in September. And they've watched a young team come of age and, ideally, enter a new era of winning baseball.
Updated: September 28, 2017 09:31 AM
Created: September 27, 2017 05:50 PM
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