The Twins will find out where they stand in the American League Central quickly next season, with nine of their first 11 series — 28 of their first 35 games — against their division brethren.
That could help the young team establish itself in a division that currently lacks a powerhouse contender — or open an early deficit in the standings that it spends all summer trying to close.
The Twins will open that 2015 journey in Detroit on April 6, the team and Major League Baseball announced Monday, with the Target Field opener arriving one week later, at 3:10 p.m. on April 13 against Kansas City. In all, the Twins will play 76 games against the AL Central and 20 interleague games against the NL Central.
In 2014, five of the season’s first 10 series were against out-of-division foes; next year, by May 15, the Twins will only have played one home and one road series against an out-of-division opponent. And next September’s schedule is almost as heavily tilted toward division games as April’s, with 22 of the final 26 games against Chicago, Kansas City, Detroit or Cleveland.
The Twins annually request to open the season away from home, in order to minimize the number of games in cold Minnesota weather. For the fifth time in six seasons at Target Field, that request has been granted, although their opening week in Detroit and Chicago doesn’t figure to be particularly warm.
But 12 of the Twins’ first 18 games in April, and seven of their final 10 in September and October, are on the road. No non-Central team will visit the Twin Cities in the season’s first month; Oakland’s visit May 4-7 is the first out-of-division home game.
The Twins’ annual home-and-home series against Milwaukee will be three-game series played on weekends next season, rather than the midweek two-game sets that the natural rivals have played the past two years. The Brewers visit Target Field on June 5-7, while the Twins travel to Miller Park on June 26-28.
The Twins will visit four of the five NL Central cities, missing only the Wrigley Field in Chicago. In addition to Milwaukee, the Twins will play at Pittsburgh May 19 and 20; at St. Louis (for the first time since 2009) June 15 and 16; and at Cincinnati June 29-July 1.
Besides the Brewers, NL Central teams coming to Target Field include the Cardinals on June 17-18 (the back end of a home-and-home); the Cubs on June 19-21; and the Pirates on July 28-29.
For the third consecutive season, the New York Yankees will visit Minnesota in July; in 2015, the dates are July 24-26. The Red Sox are at Target Field on May 25-27.
The Twins’ 55th regular season in Minnesota closes Oct. 4, at home against the Royals.
It’s the Miracle
Class A Fort Myers won the Florida State League for the first time since the Twins affiliate began play in 1992, beating the host Daytona Cubs 4-2 on Jason Kanzler’s two-run homer in the 11th inning Monday night to win the best-of-five championship series 3-1.
The Doug Mientkiewicz-managed Miracle finished the season 87-58, including 4-1 in the playoffs.
Brian Dozier is tied with Mike Trout for the AL lead in runs scored, and his 99 runs put Dozier on the verge of becoming the 13th player in Twins history to reach 100 for a season.
“I feel good about that,” Dozier said. “[Coach] Paul Molitor kind of challenged me before the season to score 100 runs. ... It takes a lot, baserunning, going first to third. The most important thing is getting on base.”
Dozier will become the 13th Twins player ever to score 100 runs, and the first since Michael Cuddyer had 102 in 2006. The team record is 140, set by Chuck Knoblauch in 1996.
One reason Dozier leads the league in runs is that he’s also third in walks, with 83. And he’s not the only Twins player with great walks numbers this year.
Phil Hughes has walked only 15 batters, and none among the past 155 hitters he’s faced. Hughes, who had a similar stretch of 178 consecutive hitters without a walk earlier this season, has struck out 165, giving him a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 11.00 — which ties him for the best in major league history. Only Bret Saberhagen, who walked 13 and struck out 143 in 1994 with the Mets, has ever matched that rate, dating back to 1900.
So could Dozier draw a walk on Hughes? “I don’t know,” said Dozier, who pointed out he is 0-for-7 in his career against him. “He’d probably punch me out with the front-door cutter, like he does with everybody else.”