MINNEAPOLIS — This has become too easy. There has to be a catch, or worse, a drop that is going to derail this seemingly unstoppable team.
That likely was the feeling of many Twins fans after watching their team improve to 24-12 on the season with a 6-0 victory Friday over the Detroit Tigers. The Twins are not only in first place in the American League Central by 4 1/2 games over second place Cleveland, but their .667 winning percentage under first-year manager Rocco Baldelli continues to be the best in baseball.
How did they come by their latest victory before an announced crowd of 26,789 in downtown Minneapolis? Just usual the recipe that has made 2019 such a smashing hit so far.
Jake Odorizzi pitched seven innings of one-hit ball, giving up a double to Christin Stewart in the first inning and then retiring the next 20 batters he faced before departing. Odorizzi extended his scoreless innings streak to 20 innings as he won his fifth consecutive start. The Twins now have five shutouts this season and three in the past four games after having only seven in all of 2018.
Jorge Polanco, whose .344 batting average was tied for the AL lead entering the game, drove in three runs, including two on a third-inning double, and Mitch Garver hit his eighth homer of the season to surpass his home run total from 2018.
Odorizzi looking like Greg Maddux; Polanco among the best hitters in the AL; and Garver playing the role of Johnny Bench. This isn’t how Minnesota sports work and it certainly isn’t how things are supposed to go for a Twins team that has finished below .500 in six of the past eight seasons. So is this some type of sick joke the sports gods are playing on us? At some point, after we’ve fully bought in, is Lucy is going to rip the ball away from Charlie Brown causing us to fall flat on our backs?
There are absolutely zero guarantees here — and the Twins still have 126 games left after Friday — but the more you watch Baldelli’s bunch the more it looks like this success isn’t a fluke. Could this roster eventually use some help when it comes to starting pitching and the bullpen? Absolutely. Especially if chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine want to give their ballclub a chance to play deep into the postseason.
But while it is fair to wonder if Odorizzi (5-2, 2.32) and Martin Perez (5-0, 2.83 ERA) can continue to pitch at their current pace, it has been established that the Twins are going to be able to spend the summer hitting the baseball. Garver and Max Kepler’s home runs on Friday gave the Twins 66 on the season, keeping them near the top of the major leagues in that category.
One thing Falvey and Levine did a good job of this offseason was creating a second track for potential success in Minnesota. The first track involves the young core of guys like Kepler, Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and yet-to-arrive prospects such as Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. But a second track was created when veterans Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Perez and Blake Parker were acquired.
The nice thing was that if the Twins struggled in 2019 that group of older players could be dealt to contenders, enabling the Twins to accumulate more prospects. But the best case was that group would thrive in Minnesota and help the Twins toward their first AL Central title since 2010.
But nobody could have expected the Twins would make winning look so easy well into the second month of the season. The Twins already are 3-0 against division-rival Detroit and will look to make that record 5-0 with a doubleheader on Saturday at Target Field. Minnesota is 12 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2010 season, their first at Target Field, when they went 94-68.
It almost seems too good to be true. Eventually, if this success continues, that feeling might pass. But Minnesota sports fan can be forgiven if for now they find it difficult not to be a bit skeptical.