A year after trading two-time CY Young Award Winner Johan Santana for a set of prospects, the Minnesota Twins truly are a "Miracle."
Predicted to struggle without their ace, the Twins are now in first place in the Central Division after sweeping Ozzie's White Sox. Sitting at an astounding 87-72 record with just three games left in the season, the Twins have a chance to shock everyone.
Head Coach Ron Gardenhire put the season into perspective last night, saying, "It feels like you should just quit playing right now and be in the playoffs." Well the Twins aren't quitting, and the playoffs are theirs for the taking.
How exactly are they doing it? With a group of young, hungry players, that's how. The Twins really don't have a true power hitter in their lineup. They are second to last in the league in total homers, with Justin Morneau leading the team with 23. So with no power-hitter and no big name players, how are the Twins leading the division?
With superb pitching and an efficient offense with runners in scoring position, the Twins are a prime example that you don't need power to be an effective offensive team. They are fourth in the league in runs scored, and second in total hits.
What's more impressive is that the Twins are first in the league with a .309 batting average with runners in scoring position. That's better than some teams overall batting average. They know how to score when it really counts. With Joe Mauer leading the AL in batting average yet again, the Twins won't provide the "pop," but they will make the game look easy.
They have a number of young players who have all played a key role in this seasons success. There's the killer M's in Morneau and Mauer. Rookie sensation Carlos Gomez, the speed demon who came over as part of the Santana deal, has been stellar in Center Field. Alexi Casilla, Denard Span, Jason Kubel, the list of no-name players is endless. They may not be no-name's for long though.
On the other side, there's that pesky Minnesota Twins pitching staff. The "Santana-less" Twins. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Glen Perkins, and of course Francisco Liriano. Outside of Liriano, how many people have actually heard of the other guys? Probably not many. However, these guys are as effective as the next.
The Twins as a team have allowed the least amount of walks in the league, and constantly pound the strike zone. They are very deep in the pen, and feature one of the games most consistent closers in Joe Nathan. And the scary thing is, all of their starters are younger than 28. The future looks bright in Minnesota, although the future may be now.
So with three games to go, and the small-ball Twins a half-game up in the division, the pressure is on these young players. Will they rise to the occasion or will they falter under the spotlight? It's been a long season, but it looks like these Twins are on their way to pulling off a Minnesota "Miracle."