1st in AL Central by 3.5 games
The Twins backed up their best split of the year with a very good one. More importantly, they took charge of the AL Central race, beating the White Sox 3 out of 5 times head to head, then outplaying them by another 1.5 games over the remainder of the split. They managed to do this despite being outscored by 10 R. This was made possible by a fortuitous distribution of their runs.
This was some of the Twins' weakest offensive production of the season. They averaged just 3.4 R/G. Even so, they were able to bunch some offense together in certain games. They scored 6 or more R six times, and won all of those games, including a couple of crucial 7-6 wins against the Sox. But they were held to 3 or fewer runs 7 times, 5 in the last 9 games. The magic pixie dust that covered the offense a couple of weeks ago has blown away.
It seems to have landed on the pitching staff, however. They allowed just 4.1 R/G. Throw out a couple of lopsided losses to the Sox and Angels, and it drops to 3.2 R/G. The Twins got a couple of outstanding starts from just about everybody in the rotation, including a shutout from Brian Duensing, a combined shutout started by Scott Baker, 7 hitless IP from Kevin Slowey, and another CG (loss) from Carl Pavano. Slowey was lost to the DL, but Nick Blackburn returned to control the Rangers for 7 IP in their home park. Only Glen Perkins stands out as consistently struggling.
The defense struggled mightily at times. That is reflected both in a rather high number of E (12) and unearned R (5), bringing the season totals to 54 and 23. But there are also still fly balls dropping between OF, DPs going unturned, low throws that Michael Cuddyer can't quite dig out of the dirt. After 80% of the season, I'm convinced that the OF defense anchored by Denard Span in CF and Delmon Young in LF is indeed a liability. Justin Morneau's glove is missed at 1B just as much as his bat in the cleanup spot.
With the Sox now in the rearview mirror, the Twins can control their own fate from here on out. Only 10 of their final 33 games are against winning teams. 19 of those games will be played at Target Field, where the Twins have a .645 winning percentage. If things continue the way they have up to this point, the Twins should finish up with 93 wins. Just to match that and force a 163rd game tie-breaker (in MN), the Sox would have to go 23-11 the rest of the way. Possible, but a tall order for any team.
Bold prediction: The Twins will average 5 R/G over this next split, and extend their lead over the Sox to at least 5 games.