The Minnesota Twins haven’t won an American League Central title since 2010, when Ron Gardenhire managed the team.
If all goes well over the next few days, the Twins (96-60) will hold a celebration at the home field of Gardenhire’s current team.
Their magic number to clinch the division is three as they open a three-game series on Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers (46-109). Second-place Cleveland trails Minnesota by four games entering the final week of the regular season.
Minnesota inched closer to that goal by winning three of four at home against Kansas City over the weekend. A major individual milestone was achieved on Sunday when Nelson Cruz blasted his 400th career homer in a 12-8 victory.
Cruz was signed as a free agent in January and has been the driving force behind the Twins’ power surge as well as their charge up the standings. He leads the team with 40 homers, 105 RBIs and a .303 batting average.
“It’s definitely something that you really appreciate after the season, because we’re really fighting for something more bigger than that,” Cruz told MLB.com.
The Twins hold an option on his contract for next season.
“I hope the Twins can give him a couple more years (on his) contract, and he can retire here,” infielder Miguel Sano told MLB.com. “I love everything that he taught me this year. Not just me. He teaches (second baseman Jonathan Schoop), a lot of players here, too. I want to say thank you, God, for letting me play with Nelson Cruz.”
The Twins have kept rolling despite the season-ending loss of center fielder Byron Buxton (shoulder) and ongoing injuries to right fielder Max Kepler (shoulder) and infielder Ehire Adrianza (oblique). It’s uncertain whether either will return to the lineup this week.
Right-hander Jake Odorozzi (14-7, 3.59 ERA), the scheduled starter on Tuesday, is looking for his first win of the month.
In his last start on Wednesday, Odorizzi gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings of a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. He faced the Tigers in Detroit on Sept. 2, receiving a no-decision while allowing three runs in five innings.
In 11 career starts, he’s 5-1 with a 3.25 ERA against Detroit.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Spencer Turnbull (3-15, 4.66 ERA), whose last win came on May 31. Detroit has lost 15 of the last 16 games in which Turnbull has taken the mound.
Turnbull gave up just one run in five innings at Cleveland on Wednesday but wound up with a no-decision.
The Tigers salvaged the finale of a three-game series on Sunday as they hit four homers in a 6-3 win over the White Sox.
Detroit assured itself that it wouldn’t become the first team in major league history to lose 60 games at home.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how many we had to win to get that out of the way,” Gardenhire said. “But if you’re saying we won’t do it, then I am fine with that. You don’t want to do stuff like that. Setting records in a negative way is never a good thing.”
–Field Level Media
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