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Souhan on Sports

Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene

Souhan: Twins in first. How is that possible?

National analysts keep trying to figure out how the Twins are winning.

Now that the Twins are tied for first place, having won 27 of their last 39, the questions will continue.

To me, there are six answers:

1) Fielding. It's always been the most difficult aspect of the game to quantify. I think it's safe to say that the Twins' fielding is dramatically improved. Trevor Plouffe has gone from a minus at third base to as good a third baseman as there is in the game. Torii Hunter makes plenty of plays in rightfield. Aaron Hicks, Jordan Schafer, Shane Robinson and Eddie Rosario have all put in good work in the outfield. And Kurt Suzuki and Brian Dozier have continued their strong defensive play.

``So many balls that went for hits the last four years are now outs,'' Glen Perkins said. ``That's what jumps out at me.''

2) Starting pitching has varied between good enough and very good. The Twins are 19-6 when their starter goes six or more innings, and their improved fielding has allowed pitchers to pitch deeper into games, which also protects the bullpen.

3) Perkins: He's 18-for-18 in saves even while embracing the occasional four-out save.

4) Situational hitting: The Twins are taking better at-bats, which is allowing them to perform better in the clutch.

5) Baserunning. This team is incredibly aggressive on the bases. If the lineup was filled with great power hitters, that might not be the right approach. But when your lineup is shallow enough that Eduardo Escobar is batting fifth, you might as well be aggressive.

6) Personality. I'm not sure that a more high-strung manager would have helped this team survive a 1-6 start, and the return of Hunter and bullpen coach Eddie Guardado have had an immediate impact on performance.

I'm amazed at how often I'll be talking to a player and they'll bring up Molitor, Hunter or Guardado without being asked.

On paper, this is an average team at best. On the field, situations and gamesmanship matter, and the Twins are winning those games-within-a-game.

@Souhanstrib

Souhan blog: Twins by the numbers

Running some numbers while waiting out the rain delay tonight...Twins are thinking they may be able to start by 8:30. The Royals are down 5-1 at New York so if the Twins win tonight they may move to within one game of first place in the American League Central.

Yes, this is the same Twins team that started the season 1-6.

And now they...

-Are 15-6 at Target Field, winning 10 of their last 12 at home. They have the best home record in the American League.

-Have won 17 of their last 23 overall.

-Are 16-6 in May, the most victories in the American League and third-most in baseball. They haven't won 17 in any Month since June of 2011.

-Are 15-4 when they receive a quality start (six innings or more and three earned runs or fewer.)

-Are 17-6 when their starting pitcher goes six innings or more.

@Souhanstrib

Top 9th R H E
Toronto 22-27 6 11 1
Minnesota 28-18 4 6 0

Today's Scoreboard

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  • Kansas City

    Chicago Cubs

     

    - F

    8

    4

  • Tampa Bay

    Baltimore

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • Colorado

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    4

    1

  • Washington

    Cincinnati

     

    - F

    2

    5

  • Miami

    NY Mets

     

    - F

    4

    3

  • Boston

    Texas

     

    - F

    4

    7

  • Chicago White Sox

    Houston

     

    - Bot 10th

    3

    3

  • Arizona

    Milwaukee

     

    - F

    7

    5

  • Toronto

    Minnesota

     

    - F

    6

    4

  • LA Dodgers

    St. Louis

     

    - F

    0

    3

  • Detroit

    LA Angels

     

    - Bot 6th

    0

    2

  • NY Yankees

    Oakland

     

    - Bot 6th

    2

    4

  • Pittsburgh

    San Diego

     

    - Bot 5th

    2

    0

  • Cleveland

    Seattle

     

    - Bot 7th

    0

    2

  • Atlanta

    San Francisco

     

    - Bot 7th

    1

    2

  • Tampa Bay

    NY Rangers

     

    - F

    2

    0

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