Last week at this time, fresh from the three games of awful in New York and without much reason for optimism, I suggested the Twins confess to the sins of 2015 and use the rest of the season to prepare for 2016. I stopped just short of suggesting the "playoff race" drinking game, where we'd take one for the team every time Dick 'n' Bert or Cory 'n' Dazzle or Anthony or Roy or any of the others in the media would use those words in a sentence.
Now, look what's happened. Six road victories in a row against teams that were in the Wild Card battle, combined with a cluster of losses by other contenders, have returned the Twins to "if the season ended right now, the Twins would be in the postseason" position.
Baseball Prospectus still only gives them about a 1 in 5 chance of really making the playoffs, but we've now reached the end of August and the games are still packed with meaning.
One of my Twitter buddies, Dan Cook from WCCO, cut me slack and explained what happened when he responded to one of my Tweets on Wednesday night:
Here's what's happened. Players have stepped up and stepped in to make up for things that have gone bad.
The rookie Tyler Duffey has stepped into the Phil Hughes spot and recovered from his awful debut. ... Kevin Jepsen has filled in excellently for closer Perkins in the last week. ... The young outfielders have covered quite well for 40-year-old Torii Hunter, whose batting numbers are .163/.217/.306 since July 19. ... Trevor May has done what's been needed in the bullpen and done it very well.
And Miguel Sano? Instead of going deep, I'll rely on these two things: One is the blogger Aaron Gleeman's post on Sano's first seven weeks with the Twins. The other is the @SanoAlerts Twitter account created this week by Ben Collin that issues, yes, alerts when Sano is about to bat.
What now? The Twins are doing some things at an unsustainable level. The bullpen couldn't pick up for the starter pitchers over the course of a season as it's done recently. But there's only 5 1/2 weeks (and a roster expansion on Sept. 1) left to ride. So is there another low-cost veteran reliever, like Neal Cotts, that can be picked up for the final weeks? Can Jose Berrios (4-2, 2.78 in 10 starts at Rochester) make a final month contribution? Will Joe Mauer close out the season hitting like Joe Mauer 1.0? How will Paul Molitor manage as the games get bigger? Does Jepsen keep closing games as long as he's sharp? How will an outfield of Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks perform in pressure situations when Hicks is healthy?
The current takeaways: Don't think about 2016 right now because 2015 has become fun again. Don't think about the almost-certain playoff opponent if the Twins get into a Wild Card game. You know, the Yankees or Blue Jays, on their turf.
Be like a player: Don't overthink things.