May 27—Not sure what you expected out of the Minnesota Twins this summer, but the results through one-quarter of the season must have exceeded expectations.
The Twins are 27-17 heading into Thursday's home game against Kansas City, 4 1/2 games clear in the lead in the American League's Central Division.
The Twins have won by dominating start to finish. They've won in their last at-bat. Last week, they won when trailing by six runs after seven innings.
They just had a six-game winning streak ended in a 10-inning loss.
The Twins don't have a real "ace" pitcher, yet the team's earned-run average of 3.31 ranks sixth in Major League Baseball.
Joe Ryan has pitched like an ace, compiling a 5-2 record and 2.28 ERA, while Sonny Gray is 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA. However, Ryan is on the COVID list, and Gray has already spent time on the injured list so there likely won't be an overabundance of confidence for the long run.
The team has survived a series of short starts by manipulating the roster.
The bullpen has been very good. Jhoan Duran lights up the radar gun at 103 mph, while Emilio Pagan moves at the speed of cement but generally gets the outs in a Ron-Davis-sort-of-way. Somehow, it's almost impossible to score on Joe Smith's mid-80s pitches.
In years past, the Twins have tried to piece together a rotation and bullpen with trades and well-used pitchers hoping to rebound, and most often, it has not worked. Maybe this is the right staff to win a division and playoff series.
The offense has been erratic, but the Twins still average 4.3 runs per game, plenty for this over-achieving pitching staff. There hasn't been as many home runs, but the team has utilized its speed and bunting to produce more runs when other things haven't worked.
Luis Arraez is fourth in AL batting average at .347 and leads the league in on-base percentage. Byron Buxton was looking like an MVP candidate until this recent slump, but he still has 11 home runs. Carlos Correa has overcome a slow start to raise his batting average to .275. Gio Urshela had two walk-off hits last weekend.
All of these parts may not be sustainable. There will certainly be ups and downs, winning streaks and surprising losses.
The offense seems more likely to keep this team moving forward, but pitchers like Ryan, Bailey Ober and Josh Winder might be too young and naive to understand that they should be struggling more often.
Whatever the reason, the Twins are winning more than 60% of their games, a rate which is probably enough to win this division.
Summer is more fun when the Twins are winning.
Chad Courrier is the Free Press sports editor. He's at 507-344-6353, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChadCourrier.