The Twins wrapped up interleague play yesterday with their typical prowess. They're not quite to the level they reached in 2006, but still the best in the majors.
After having their 10-game winning streak snapped, the Twins rebounded to take the series finale 5-0 on one of Kevin Slowey’s best outings as a pro.
Slowey completely shut down the Brewers’ potent lineup, allowing just three baserunners, and the Twins continued their clutch hitting by scoring all five of their runs with two outs.
The Twins’ 14-4 record in interleague play was hurt most by losing two of three in their opening series with the Rockies. Since then, the Twins went 13-2 and won all of their subsequent series with the junior circuit.
Dominating the NL is nothing new for the Twins, who frequently have their hopes raised by strong interleague play, only to have them dashed by the harsh reality of the AL Central. Regardless of opponent, the Twins are playing their best baseball right now.
The rotation has solidified behind Slowey and Baker, and the emergence of Brian Buscher, and Alexi Casilla has rendered Mike Lamb and Nick Punto as deadweight.
Also, the Twins seem to find a new hero every night; from the expected contributors like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, to the pleasant surprises like Brendan Harris. Unfortunately, the Twins don’t have the luxury of an easy slide into the All-Star break; it is out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The Twins open up a six-game homestand against the Tigers, who have seem to have found their stride, and the Indians. Magglio Ordonez’s injury bodes well for the Twins. So does the fact that they will miss Tigers' ace Justin Verlander.
The Twins need to play well in this upcoming homestand for a number of reasons. First, they need to show that this recent run is due to improvements in the team and not a dip in the level of competition. Milwaukee has been very good lately, and their lineup is potent, but as of now, they aren’t even a playoff team.
The Nationals and Padres are both at the bottom of their respective divisions and aren’t exactly headed in the right direction.
Second, the Twins need to play well in their division. This is always true, no matter what the situation is. Playing well against divisional opponents is always important. It is even more important now heading into the All-Star break and beyond, when teams will need to decide if they are buyers or sellers.
Stopping the Tigers’ hot streak is also crucial, as the Twins should always look to limit the amount of competition for the division or the wild card.
Last, the Twins need to win these home series to get fans excited about the direction of this team. The Metrodome can be a very difficult place to play for opponents, but only if fans show up and get into the game. The expectations for this year were so low that fans weren’t coming out and making the 'Dome shake.
Now, the Twins are fielding an extremely hot team, which plays a fun-to-watch brand of baseball, and it still seems like the Brewers' fans outnumbered Twins' fans in the recent series.
If the Twins can stay hot, win both of these series, and avoid the early-July swoon, fans will have the All-Star break to consider what this team is capable of, and that should produce an increase in ticket sales.
As the fans pack into the 'Dome, the Twins home-field advantage (no, not the roof, the fans) will become a reality, like it was at the end of 2006.
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