MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins took two of three games this weekend from the Texas Rangers at Target Field and still saw their lead over the Cleveland Indians reduced to 5.5 games in the American League Central.
That lead was as many as 11.5 games on June 3, but Cleveland (50-38) has gone 21-8 since then and will get an opportunity to shrink the Twins’ lead even more when they play host to Minnesota in a three-game series next weekend in Cleveland. The Indians entered the break with back-to-back victories over the Cincinnati Reds, including an 11-1 rout on Sunday, that came in a two-game series.
“They are pitching the ball very well and with (Carlos) Santana and (Francisco) Lindor and those guys swinging the bats better I think they are getting a lot more in sync,” Twins starter Kyle Gibson said Sunday. “They are probably becoming the team that everybody thought they were going to be, and their early struggles put them where they are now. It’s a team that, even when we have struggled, we have played them well the last four or five years. No matter if we are here or there, the games are going to be competitive.”
The Twins, and Cleveland for that matter, will get the next four days to decompress during the All-Star break. The game will be played on Tuesday in Cleveland. The Twins will be represented by Jorge Polanco, who will start at shortstop for the AL, and pitcher Jose Berrios, who replaced injured teammate Jake Odorizzi.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after his team’s 4-1,11-inning loss to Texas on Sunday that it is important for everyone to get away from baseball for a few days.
“It’s important for everybody, especially the players, but not just the players,” Baldelli said. “For everybody involved in this game, it’s a long year, and there’s really only one time over the course of nine months that you get to wake up two days in a row and do whatever you want. And there’s something to that. So I’m sure it’ll be a good feeling for everyone to take a little break, choose what you’re going to do and who you’re going to hang out with and what coffee you’re going to drink, and that’s it.”
The Twins will reconvene on Thursday in Cleveland and conduct an optional workout that day. Despite the fact their lead isn’t what it once was, and a series against the second-place team in the AL Central could reduce it even more, the Twins will get time to reflect on an excellent “first half” of the season. The team is 56-33, hasn’t lost three games in a row all season and spent much of the first portion of the year with the best record in baseball.
“I think it definitely makes it enjoyable,” Gibson said of the Twins’ success. “I think it is easy to get caught up in what everything looked like to two three weeks ago and now what it looks like and how we struggled a little bit the last three weeks. I think if you asked us April 1 if we had a (5.5)-game lead in the division at the All-Star break everyone would be pretty happy.
“Today stings a little bit, losing in extra innings, but if we win the rest of the series the rest of the year, once again, we would be pretty happy. So perspective is a big thing in trying not to hang on every loss, hang on every win and trying to remain consistent. I think everyone is going to enjoy their break and show up to Cleveland ready to go. That is going to be a big series to start the second half and a string of games for us that we’re going to need to be healthy for and going to need to play well. Probably those first 10 games after the break are going to be pretty important.”
The Twins and Indians are scheduled to play 10 more times in the regular season after this coming weekend. Baldelli doesn’t want the focus on that right now.
“Over the next four days, they should be thinking about, honestly, doing whatever it is that they want and relaxing a little bit and taking it easy, both physically and mentally,” he said. “It’s perfectly OK to — I think it’s good for everyone to check out from whatever it is we’ve been doing for all of this time and go enjoy themselves. We’ll be back together soon enough, and I’m sure it will go relatively quickly, because it always does. But we’ll be back at the end of the week, and I’m pretty confident our guys will be ready to play when we return.”