The Minnesota Twins open their final homestand of the season on Monday night when they begin a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox at Target Field in Minneapolis. And depending how things play out, it could be a memorable week for the Twins.
Minnesota (91-58), which ends the homestand with four games against the struggling Kansas City Royals (55-95), holds a 4 1/2 game lead in the American League Central over the Cleveland Indians (87-63) with just 13 games to go. The magic number is nine for the Twins to clinch their first division title since 2010.
Minnesota, which took two out of three games from the Indians over the weekend, also could make history by becoming the first major league team to have five players with 30 home runs in a season. The Twins currently have four - Nelson Cruz (37), Max Kepler (36), Eddie Rosario (31) and Mitch Garver (30) - with Miguel Sano just one away after hitting his 29th in Sunday's 7-5 loss.
"It's awesome, but I'm waiting for one more guy," Rosario told the Minneapolis Star Tribune after hitting Nos. 30 and 31 in Sunday's loss. "That's the record in MLB - five guys hitting 30 homers. Awesome."
Minnesota has also hit a major league single-season record 287 home runs this season, one more than the New York Yankees, who have played two more games. They are the 13th team in major league history to have four players with 30 homers and the first since the 2009 Phillies.
Although Minnesota dropped Sunday's finale to the Indians in sloppy fashion committing an uncharacteristic four errors, it's was still a good weekend for Rocco Baldelli's squad, which swept a doubleheader on Saturday while using a bullpen-by-committee to pitch both games.
"We've been playing great," Baldelli said. "It was a great series, it really was. It was a tremendous job by our guys to come in (Saturday). The resiliency, the effort we got from everyone, top to bottom, it was amazing."
With a series victory already in the bag, Baldelli decided to push back the scheduled start for right-hander Jose Berrios (12-8, 3.63 ERA) to Monday night against a Chicago team he has dominated during his career. Berrios is 10-2 with a 2.40 ERA in 13 career starts against the White Sox, including 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts this season.
Chicago will counter with right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (9-13, 5.35), who is just 1-3 with a 5.30 ERA in six career starts against the Twins. Lopez is still searching for his first victory at Target Field, where he has compiled a 0-3 mark and 5.16 ERA in four starts.
The White Sox (65-84), who hold a 10 1/2-game lead over the Royals for third place in the AL Central, have dropped four of their last five games, including back-to-back walk-off losses at Seattle. Sunday afternoon's 11-10 setback was particularly painful as reliever Jose Ruiz walked Tom Murphy with the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth to force in the winning run as Chicago blew a 10-5 lead over the final two innings.
Ruiz's walk was the 11th issued by White Sox pitchers in the loss, a season high.
"Those are things that we have to certainly clean up in general," manager Rick Renteria told nbcchicago.com. "You see what happens on a major league field. It's not easy to win on a daily basis no matter who you're playing. Nobody quits and nobody's going to feel sorry for them or us or anyone."
--Field Level Media