When the Twins officially clinched the division title last Tuesday with a full two weeks remaining in the regular season, conversation began to center on whether the team would be wiser to take the foot off the pedal, resting up starters for the postseason run, or keep on pushing for home field advantage in both the ALDS and ALCS.
There's an oft-repeated truism that these things tend to work themselves out. There's a reason it's so oft repeated.
As Joe Christensen writes today, the Twins are dealing with a rash of injuries here as the season winds down. Numerous players are nicked up, most notable among them Joe Mauer, who John Bonnes recently named as the team's 2010 MVP (I'm in agreement.)
Mauer's knee inflammation continues to be treated publicly by the team as a small matter, but after missing this past weekend's series in Detroit the catcher is no sure bet to be available for even DH duty in the Twins' next series against the Royals, said Ron Gardenhire.
Mauer stated that his knee "would have to be pretty bad" for him to him to miss time in the playoffs, but that assurance provides little comfort. The fact that not being ready for the ALDS has even crossed Mauer's mind is enough to cause pings of anxiety.
The Twins are already, of course, without Justin Morneau, whose return this year was almost completely ruled out by Gardenhire in an interview with AM-1500 last week (though I continue to cling to a thread of hope that Morneau can come back for bench duty in the playoffs, because it'd just be awesome). On top of that, Jim Thome's back is acting up, J.J. Hardy's knee swelled up yesterday, Denard Span has a bum foot and each of the Twins' top three playoff starters pitched like they were running on fumes over the weekend.
Despite dropping all three of their games in Detroit, the Twins are still just one game behind Tampa Bay in the standings, meaning they've still got a shot at finishing with the American League's best record and guaranteeing home field advantage up until the World Series.
However, considering that the Rays' remaining schedule consists entirely of match-ups against the Orioles and Royals while the Twins have a four-game series against the tough Blue Jays looming (not to mention fact that the Yankees could still easily finish ahead of both teams), it seems as though locking up the No. 1 seed might be something of a pipe dream for Gardy's crew.
But that's OK. It's only one fewer home game during the entire postseason schedule. And that's only if the Rays or Yankees defeat the Rangers in the first round. Bonnes proclaimed last week that there's no room for debate when it comes to the choice of resting up aching starters or pushing for home field advantage. Assuring the health of all key players is top priority, and that's even more evident with injuries continuing to mount and only seven regular-season games remaining.