Posted on September 26, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Minnesota Twins have a division title to claim as their own. Combined with the Indians losing to the White Sox on Wednesday, Minnesota’s 5-1 win over the Tigers officially clinched the AL Central for the Twins. It’s their second playoff birth in the last three seasons after earning a Wild Card spot in 2017. But it’s the club’s first division title since 2010.
The Twins began the season expected to compete for another Wild Card spot, as the Indians were once again favorites to win their fourth straight AL Central title. But Minnesota showed early in the season that Cleveland winning the division wasn’t going to be a given. The Twins benefited a little from the Indians being hit hard by injuries. But it wasn’t until Minnesota’s 98th win of the season that they managed to clinch. It was well-earned, and with two wins in their final four games, the Twins will secure their first 100-win season since 1965.
“I’ve been telling a lot of guys: This has been a long time coming,” said Kyle Gibson, who is the longest-tenured player on Minnesota’s roster. “It’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time. To bring in the pieces that we did and to believe in ourselves like we did and come back in a lot of situations and fight injuries the whole time, there’s a lot of guys I’m really, really proud of.”
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On paper, the Twins had tons of potential heading into the season. But coming off a losing season in 2018 when that potential was unfulfilled, there were no guarantees the Twins would fare any better in 2019. However, a few veterans bounced back from down years in 2018 and a slew of young players like Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, and Max Kepler all had breakout seasons to help the Twins take that next step.
“We didn’t know what our team was,” said pitchers Jake Odorizzi. “We knew what we were on paper, but we didn’t know what kind of team we were going to have on the field.”
From Day 1, hitting for power has been the team’s calling card. The Twins are currently tied with the Yankees for the most home runs in baseball this season. Eight players have contributed at least 20 home runs this season. Free-agent addition Nelson Cruz has led the way. Fellow winter additions C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop have also hit at least 20 home runs. But youngsters like Kepler, Rosario, Miguel Sano, and Mitch Garver have all hit over 30 home runs this year to take Minnesota’s power to the next level.
“Do you want them to see you as, ‘OK. This is a team that I can dominate,'” said Cruz amidst Wednesday’s celebration. “Or, ‘Be careful. Don’t miss a pitch. We can be down in one swing.’ We needed to just find an identity, and we found that one. It’s called the Bomba Squad.”
While nothing is official just yet, the Twins are likely to have a date with the Yankees in the ALDS. The Twins lost the Wild Card Game to the Yankees in 2017. But this time, they will get five games to prove themselves rather than a one-game playoff. Of course, between the Yankees and the Astros, the Twins are bound to be underdogs throughout the postseason. But the Twins began the season as underdogs and won’t shy away from playing that same role in October.