For the first time this season, the Minnesota Twins do not have the worst record in the American League.
Fueled by a 21-13 stretch since July 1, including a 3-1 win in the opener of a four-game series against the Houston Astros on Monday, the Twins passed the Tampa Bay Rays and moved out of the A.L. cellar.
Minnesota, which has won seven of its last nine overall, will try and keep that momentum going on Tuesday when it continues its series with the Astros.
“August 8th, we passed somebody. How long has it been?” Twins manager Paul Molitor joked on Monday. “It’s been a long time.”
Despite a lost season, Molitor said players try and accentuate the positives like on Monday, when they moved up in the standings.
“I would think that these guys are aware of those things,” Molitor said. “We’re enjoying what we’re doing right now, guys are having fun, a lot of joking going around which is good as long as the focus is where it needs to be.”
On the flip side, the Astros will try and get back on track before their fading postseason hopes are gone for good.
Houston has lost six of its last seven games and nine of 11 overall, dropping to third place in the American League West.
“We didn’t play well enough to win (on Monday) and it’s been troublesome for a couple of weeks now,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “You gotta play better to win.”
The Astros mustered just four hits in Monday’s loss and Carlos Gomez made a pair of defensive miscues in the fifth inning that accounted for two of Minnesota’s three runs.
Gomez also went 0-for-3 at the plate, including a double play, dropping his average to .210 on the season.
“I’ll take a look at it and see how it goes,” Hinch said when asked if he can continue to play Gomez. struggling through a tough season. “You keep trying to hang in there with guys, you want to encourage them more than anything. Clearly it’s been a rough patch for him for a while.”
Hinch will send right-hander Mike Fiers to the mound to try and get the club going. Fiers struggled to open the season but has been better of late, posting a 3.56 ERA in 11 starts since June 1. He has had a quality start each of his last three times out, including a six-inning, two-run outing against Toronto on Thursday.
Fiers allowed four runs on nine hits and a walk in a no-decision against the Twins on May 4 at Minute Maid Park.
Houston will see a familiar face on Tuesday when the Twins send Hector Santiago to the mound to make his home debut. Santiago, acquired from the Angels on Aug. 1 in exchange for Ricky Nolasco and a prospect, allowed four runs on five hits and a pair of walks in five innings in Cleveland in his first game with the Twins on Thursday.
The left-hander allowed one run on three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings against the Astros when he played for the Angels on June 21 and has a 3.69 ERA in 10 career starts against Houston.