Zulgad: Rocco’s resilient bunch continues to play to positive reviews

How different are these Twins?

That’s a question on which many have been waiting for an answer after watching this franchise have six losing seasons in the past eight years. Prove you are different.

A 10-4 loss on April 5 at Philadelphia after a 4-1 start to the season provided the Twins the first opportunity to show us something. A 6-2 victory over the Phillies the next day was a good start but nothing more. What about after a 9-6 loss on April 10 against the Mets in New York? The Twins followed with two victories over Detroit at Target Field. An 11-0 loss to Houston on Tuesday at Target Field appeared as if it could have been a right cross to the Twins’ confidence. Instead, it was followed by back-to-back wins over the Astros.

And then there was Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

The Twins entered with the best record in baseball, but playing in a stadium in which they had lost eight in a row and 13 of 14. An ugly performance in a 6-3 loss to the Yankees dropped Minnesota to 9-30 in the stadium. There were many who tried to dismiss this record by pointing to the turnover of the Twins’ roster since Minnesota’s woes in the Bronx began.

The focus needed to go back to exactly how resilient would new manager Rocco Baldelli’s ballclub be in the second game of the series? The answer: Very.

The Twins led 5-0 after 6 1/2 innings Saturday and left with a 7-3 victory. Jake Odorizzi pitched very well for a second consecutive start, giving up no runs, two hits with four walks and eight strikeouts in six innings. That came after he gave up no runs, four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 1-0 victory over the Astros last Monday.

“I think it started with our pitching and our guys did a great job, and Odo went out there and threw the ball great again,” Baldelli told reporters. “More of what we saw from him (last Monday). … I think it started there and I think the at-bats were good. (Yankees lefthander J.A.) Happ is not an easy guy to run up against.”

The Twins improved to 20-11 with the victory, giving them a two-game lead over second place Cleveland in the American League Central. The Twins’ longest losing streak of the season is two games and that has only happened twice. The Indians, meanwhile, are now without key starters Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber, who suffered a non-displaced fracture of the right ulna bone on Wednesday when he was hit by a line drive against the Marlins.

The Twins have only played 31 games — a year ago they were 14-17 at this point — but this team has a much different feel to it. The addition of veterans Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron and Marwin Gonzalez (yes, he’s only hitting .191 but he provides solid defense) has certainly helped. Cruz hit his seventh home run and second in two days on Saturday and Cron belted his sixth. Schoop was robbed of a three-run homer by Yankees right fielder Cameron Maybin in the fourth inning.

While the majority of these Twins might not have cared what happened to the franchise in previous stops at Yankee Stadium, this series does provide an opportunity to prove they are different. Just as they did in taking three of four from the Astros at home and winning four of seven overall in the season series against an American League power.

On Sunday, the Twins will get a chance to win a series in Yankee Stadium for the first time since 2013. That’s the only time in the past 18 years, dating to the old Yankee Stadium, when the Twins have done that.

The Twins’ success in that July 2013 series meant little as Minnesota finished 66-96. The story of the 2019 Twins is far from complete, but a win Sunday would be another step toward proving these aren’t the same old Twins.