Yahoo! Sports: Twins are AL’s scariest team
The Minnesota Twins enjoyed one celebration on Monday. They’d like to have another before the regular season ends.
The playoff-bound Twins continue their pursuit of the AL Central title when they send ace Johan Santana to the mound Tuesday and continue a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals at the Metrodome.
Minnesota (93-63) clinched its fourth postseason berth in five years Monday with an 8-1 victory to open the series. The win eliminated the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox, who led the Twins by nine games at the All-Star break.
“It’s sweeter, because we were written off,” center fielder Torii Hunter said.
The Twins pulled within one game of first-place Detroit, which is tied with the New York Yankees for the best record in the AL. A division title could earn Minnesota home-field advantage throughout the playoffs—it has a major league-best 51-24 record at home.
“Hopefully we’re doing this again. That’s our goal,” said first baseman Justin Morneau during a raucous celebration in the clubhouse.
Morneau hit a three-run homer to bolster his MVP credentials. He’s batting .368 (35-for-95) with 19 RBIs and 18 runs scored in September.
Santana (18-6, 2.79 ERA) will likely make his final start of the regular season as he tries to become baseball’s first 19-game winner. He was scheduled to start Sunday if the Twins needed to win to reach the postseason, but will now probably be held back to pitch the playoff opener.
The Twins have won 22 straight home games started by Santana, including all 16 this year. The left-hander is 15-0 with a 1.92 ERA over those 22 outings since his last loss at the Metrodome on Aug. 1, 2005, to Oakland.
Minnesota has also won the last 10 starts by Santana against the Royals. The 2004 Cy Young Award winner is 7-0 with a 2.23 ERA in those outings.
However, the Twins have failed to win two straight starts by Santana for the first time since his first two outings of the season. His nine-game winning streak ended at Boston on Thursday, when he surrendered four runs and six hits over five innings of a 6-0 loss.
Catcher Joe Mauer went 2-for-3 Monday and enters play with a .349 average, leading New York’s Derek Jeter by nine points in the AL batting race. However, Mauer is just 10-for-40 (.250) against the Royals.
Minnesota improved to 10-6 against last-place Kansas City (58-98), which is 1-14 against Detroit—one reason why the Twins are in second place.
The Royals are two losses away from a third straight 100-loss season. Still, the successes of the small-market Tigers and Twins have given them reason for hope.
“It drives me. I want to be doing that one day,” right fielder Shane Costa said. “Hopefully in years to come, maybe we can be doing that. I think the future is bright.”
The left-hander is 0-1 with a 10.61 ERA in two starts against the Twins this season, failing to last past the fifth inning on both occasions.