After an 8-5 comeback victory that sliced the Twins' magic number to six — a figure that might decrease more rapidly now that Cleveland no longer gets to beat up on Detroit (18-1 slight season series edge) — manager Rocco Baldelli chided those of us who are looking ahead to the postseason.
"If anyone is really focusing on anything beyond that, or wondering about anything beyond that, I would advise them not to," Baldelli said. "Because we have to figure out how to win now."
It's a good point. Four up with nine to play, and with a schedule edge, puts the Twins in a very good spot. But there is still work to be done, particularly when the number of established trustworthy starting pitchers has been reduced for the moment to two (plus one time through the order for Martin Perez), which is part of the reason when I dared look ahead the other day to a division series rotation it included two bullpen games out of five.
Rallying after Kyle Gibson put them in a 3-0 hole was significant for the Twins, who would like to see the magic number change every night.
But Baldelli's urging aside, allow me to drift past the regular season and even the postseason for just a moment to think about 2020 and beyond. The Twins look stacked and primed to contend for several years to come.
One piece of the optimism comes from 2017 No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis. If you look at his raw numbers in 2019 — he hit just .236 between Class A Ft. Myers and Class AA Pensacola — there might be a tinge of disappointment. But consider the year started when he was still a teenager, and note that he's finishing strong, and the picture gets more appealing.
Lewis hit .400 in a five-game playoff series against Biloxi, with a home run and three walks in the mix as well. And now playing in the Arizona Fall League, Lewis had a night to remember on Thursday — playing at a new position to boot.
Normally a shortstop, Lewis has played third base and center field in two AFL games. It was in center on Thursday that Lewis made a great running catch up against the fence to end a half inning, then followed right away at the plate with a long home run. Let's take a look at both highlights (you can also see them here and listen to Lewis describe the action).
And the shot:
He's one of the top overall prospects in baseball for a reason — and he's part of a deep farm system that has the Twins ranked among MLB's top 10 overall.
Combined with the young talent the Twins already have in the mix and a front office that showed this year it can push most of the right buttons in terms of adding complementary veteran pieces, the Twins could be set up very well for the next half-decade.
You might even argue that they're ahead of schedule this year even as they threaten to win 100 games.
They'll need to go 6-3 over their last nine games to reach that mark — which would be the first time since MLB went to three divisions in each league in 1994 that all three division winners in the same league reached the century mark. The Twins have only won 100 games once in their franchise history: 1965, when they won 102.
But that's getting way ahead of ourselves. Sorry, Rocco. Tonight's pitching matchup is Randy Dobnak vs. Eric Skoglund.