Clinching the AL Central Title
The Minnesota Twins clinched the American League division title on Tuesday after beating the Cleveland Indians 6-4 and the Chicago White Sox lost to the Oakland Athletics 7-2.
It was the sixth division title for the Twins in nine seasons, and the first in their new Target Field Stadium, which was built before this season.
Tale of Two Seasons
A team that entered spring training as the favorites to repeat as division champions lost All-Star closer Joe Nathan to Tommy John surgery before opening day, and they played two months without All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau.
There are a bunch of new faces in the Twins lineup this year that are making some major contributions. Jim Thome, an eventual Hall-of-Famer, was signed in the offseason for $1.5 million.
He has 25 home runs this season and won games for the Twins on many occasions. He can be that veteran leader who can guide the team in the playoffs.
The Twins picked up infielder J.J. Hardy, as well as some in-season pickups with closer Matt Caps and pitcher Brian Fuentes to bolster their staff.
At the All-Star break the Twins were a mediocre 46-42. The Detroit Tigers were at the head of the AL Central, and Minnesota could not produce offensively.
They definitely turned it around the second half of the season. The Twins are 45-18 since the All-Star break and turned a close division race into a runaway.
This division title is a little different from the last two seasons the Twins won the AL Central, mainly because it was not decided in game 163.
Both in 2008 and in 2009 the Twins had to play in a one-game playoff just to see who would win the division. They lost to the White Sox in 2008 and beat the Tigers in 2009 to squeak into the postseason.
"Considering we've been to game 163 the last couple years, I think it might work out a little bit better for us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "At least I know we'll be rested for the first game, and that's a nice thought that we can get some people healthy and kind of set things up a little bit easier than we have the last couple years."
Best Record in Baseball
But the Twins (91-60) are not just looking to rest for the playoffs and get healthy for the postseason. They sit one game behind the New York Yankees (92-59) for the best record in the baseball, which will bring them home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
The Twins' 51 home wins are tied for the second most in baseball behind the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves, who both have 52.
The Twins are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and their offense boasts the best batting average in baseball at .277
The Minnesota Twins who won the AL Central Tuesday, will also end the regular season with the best record in American League.
The Twins end the season with games against division foes: the Indians, Tigers, Royals and then close the year against a competitive AL East Toronto Blue Jays team.
On the other hand, the Yankees are battling the Tampa Bay Rays for the division title and still play Toronto who has always had the Yankees' number. They also have a home-and-home against their bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox.
The difference between the competition level between the AL Central and that of the AL East will enable the Twins to surpass the Yankees for the best record in the American League and home field advantage.