[fusion_text]I must acknowledge the Twins’ appearance, however fleeting, at the top of the AL East standings (5/28/15). This represents an extraordinary turnaround from their disastrous first week when I, and many others more informed than I, wrote them off for the season. It is also a surprise to the national prognosticators who uniformly picked the Twins to finish in the cellar for a third (or is it a fourth?) consecutive season.
How have they done it?, is the question, and despite watching many recent games on MLB.TV, I have no answer. They lack a power hitter, and no regular is batting over, or even close to, .300. Their defense is solid, if pedestrian. Their one historic All-Star, Joe Mauer, plays a power position, first base, but has one home run. Their relievers, with the exception of closer Glen Perkins, are pitchers I’d never heard of. Perkins, it is true, is 18 for 18 in save situations, but he’s been doing more like Eddie Guardado than Mariano Rivera.
The most obvious group that should be credited with the Twins’ resurgence is the starting rotation. Again, though, there is no dominant pitcher and no breakout star. In fact, the one pitcher who was supposed to anchor the rotation, Ervin Santana, will not join the team for another month because of his drug suspension. Hughes, Gibson, Nolasco, May and Pelfrey have all looked terrible at times, but seemingly on cue they have all begun to build comfortably winning records. Perhaps they realize that the first to falter will be replaced by Santana, if not an original member of the rotation, Tommy Milone, who is tearing up Triple-A.
The best explanation I can offer comes down to the intangible that may be the most important difference between winning and losing in sports, and that is confidence. Once the Twins started winning with their anonymous lineup, they began to believe they should be winning and the cycle kept repeating itself. Maybe this came from the positive spirit brought in by Torii Hunter. Maybe it’s due to new manager Paul Molitor. Maybe the critical mass of Latin players who relaxed each other. Who knows? The next question is, what will happen when the inevitable losing streak arrives? Will the confidence crumble and the wheels fall off, exposing the obvious talent deficiencies?
All I know for sure (and the same thing has been stated by the reporters and broadcasters covering the team) is that the Twins have become a fun team to watch and made me cautiously optimistic, but no more, about the summer of baseball to come.