1st in AL Central by 1 game
My hopes from last time were realized, as the Twins took huge advantage of the soft part of their schedule. This split began with an 8-game winning streak vs. the Orioles, Royals and Mariners. 5 of those wins came on the road, elevating the Twins' record away from Target Field back to .500. There were only 3 home games, and they won all of those. Sprinkled in among the cupcakes were 5 games against contenders, and the Twins won 3 of those.
The offense went absolutely insane in this split. They put up 112 R, good for an even 7/game. That surpasses the first 2 splits, when they were scoring at a robust clip, by about 30 runs. All this with Justin Morneau still on the shelf, and most of it without Orlando Hudson. Alexi Casilla filled in at 2B, hitting as well as Hudson has at any point this year. Delmon Young moved up to the middle of the lineup, and was a potent combo with Joe Mauer for at least the 1st half of this split. Mauer has been searing hot, delivering power as well as BA. Jason Repko, Danny Valencia and even Drew Butera have all been hot at the bottom of the lineup.
I predicted that the Twins would have double-digit QS over this stretch, and they delivered with 11 (if you include Kevin Slowey's 7 shutout innings vs. the Rays - which I do). The pitching allowed only 52 R, even a little better than what they did over the first 1/5 of the season. Scott Baker is still inconsistent, but Slowey is finally pitching deep into games, and Brian Duensing has been quality in each of his starts lasting 6 or more innings so far. Matt Capps added depth to the bullpen, which was steady apart from a couple of loud mishaps from Matt Guerrier and Ron Mahay.
The defense made its share of mistakes. They commtted 8 E, though they led to just 2 unearned R, bringing those totals to 42 and 18 for the season. Denard Span and Young got to a lot of balls in the OF that they couldn't quite catch. Michael Cuddyer has filled in admirably for Morneau at 1B, but I wonder how many balls that get by him would have been speared by Morneau. That goes for short throws from the IF as well.
Since I've been tracking splits over the last decade, the Twins have generally put together winning seasons. And all of those winners included at least one run like this. The White Sox had a decent split of their own, but the Twins still picked up 4 games on them. Now those teams play 5 times in the next 8 games. If the Twins can win at least three, it should leave them in 1st place with 1/4 of the season to go, and the pressure will be squarely on the Sox to make up the ground against a tougher schedule.
Bold prediction: The AL Central will still be nip and tuck at the end of the next split - the Twins' schedule isn't easy, but the Sox' kinda is. So, as well as the Twins might play, I'll bet the Sox can match it.