Coming into this week's series against the Chicago White Sox, it was a do-or-die situation for the Sox. They needed to take at least two from the Twins to stay afloat in the American League Central pennant race.
The Twins went ahead and stepped on the head of the White Sox. Race over.
Even though the Twins haven't technically won the AL Central, it's now just a matter of time before the Twins officially clinch the Central with a "magic number" of eight combined Twins wins and White Sox loses.
However, now is not the time to shift into neutral and coast to the finish. There is still a lot at stake.
It's no secret that the Twins have struggled mightily against the New York Yankees in both the regular season and the playoffs in the past decade. This year hasn't been any different. The Twins need to do everything possible to avoid playing the Yankees.
Avoiding the Yankees will not be easy if not impossible. With that being said, the Twins need to bring the Yankees, or any other team to them.
The Twins need home field advantage.
As of Friday morning, the Twins are tied for the second best record in the American league with the New York Yankees while the Tampa Bay Rays have a half game lead on both teams. Having the best record in the league equates to home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Coming in second means possibly having home field advantage only in the first round.
If the season were to end right now, the Twins would have the Yankees in the opening round at Target Field and the Rays and Rangers would match up with the Rays gaining home field in that series. If the Twins and Rays were to both advance, the Rays would have home field advantage in the American League Championship Series.
What does that all mean?
Even if the Twins do have the central under their control, they still have to play for playoff positioning.
Although resting the ever-day players is a must, there has to be a happy medium between resting the starters and still being competitive. Luckily, the Twins are done playing competitive and will finish the season playing the Oakland A's (3 games), Cleveland Indians (3 games), Detroit Tigers (3 games), Kansas City Royals (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (4 games). Ten of the 16 games are at Target Field, as well.
In other words, the Twins are in prime position to still win games with their "B" squad in the game against these much lesser opponents. You couldn't draw it up any better for the Twins to end the season.
Jason Kubel will have a chance to get his wrist to 100%, Mauer can get a few more days off, and the rotation can get an extra day or two to rest. All of which and more is very much needed to have a good playoff run.
All in all, the Twins need to keep on fighting in effort to lock up great positing for the playoffs. Let the Yankees, Rays, or Rangers come to Minnesota and deal with the hottest team in baseball at their brand-new stadium.
Joe Mauer hitting an opposite field double; Jim Thome crushing hanging sliders out of the yard; Francisco Liriano baffling hitters with his slider.
All of that and hopefully more fireworks has to happen at Target Field as much as possible during the playoffs.