On July 30, barely a week ago, the Twins made an early-morning trade of lefthanded pitcher Jaime Garcia to the Yankees. Garcia, who made just one start (in a victory) for the Twins after being acquired from Atlanta when the Twins were buyers, was suddenly dispatched after a rough week that turned them into sellers.
At the end of that Sunday, after the Twins had blown a 5-0 lead in a 6-5 loss to the A's, they were 50-53 — and a full seven games behind Cleveland in the American League Central and five games behind Kansas City (with two other teams to climb over) in the race for the second wild-card spot.
A rational person playing the percentages — a description that we must conclude describes Twins bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine — would have looked at that situation and decided this season just wasn't meant to be. A day later, right at the trade deadline, the Twins dealt away closer Brandon Kintzler — a free agent at the end of this season, but a reliever good enough to make this year's AL All-Star team. It was a pretty clear message that management had turned the page to 2018 and beyond.
The Twins lost their next game in San Diego to fall to 50-54. What followed, though, was a modest surge: five wins in the next seven games, including three in a row in comeback fashion over the past three games. The Royals, who had been red-hot when the Twins decided to sell, lost seven of nine. Nobody else in the wild-card race has really distinguished themselves.
Suddenly, after just one pretty good week, the Twins woke up Wednesday 1.5 games back, albeit as part of a cluster of six teams all within two games of one playoff spot.
Per MLB.com, at that point the Twins still had just a 6.9 percent chance of reaching the postseason — a long shot, almost certainly as a wild card, to reach what is now a one-game playoff with the other wild-card team. But it happened so suddenly — as quickly as the Twins had disappeared, they reappeared — that they are now in a fun and awkward position.
The fun part is nobody expects anything of the Twins at this point, and the team appears to be playing with a certain attitude that is both loose and determined as a result. That can be a winning mix.
The awkward part is there will inevitably be games in which the Twins' depleted bullpen or weakened starting rotation falters and costs the team.
If the Twins come up short of the playoffs — which is still the very likely outcome — there will be a nagging curiosity among fans (and maybe even players themselves) what might have happened if they hadn't suddenly become sellers and perhaps even added another piece or two.
This hot streak will be fun while it lasts, but the second-guessing will be a thing to watch, too.