Even empty, Target Field has been such a comfortable home for the Twins this year, they’re probably going to get to play at least a couple extra games here.
The Twins completed a weekend sweep of Cleveland on Sunday, bashing four more home runs to rally for a 7-5 victory that all but eliminates last year’s chief nemesis from contending for the AL Central championship. And by dropping Cleveland 3 ½ games behind them with just a dozen games remaining, the Twins have all but clinched one of the four no-road-games tickets to the first round of the playoffs.
“Any team would like to play the first round at home if they could. The way we’ve played at home, it points even more so in that direction,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after his team improved to an MLB-best 21-5 in its home ballpark. “Our guys love playing here. They’re very comfortable here. If we can make that happen, that would be great.”
They probably already have. Minnesota, which clinched at least a .500 season by winning its 30th game, remains one game behind the White Sox for the division crown, which comes with the right to host a best-of-three first-round series. The teams will play four games in Chicago beginning Monday, and those could clarify that race entering the final 10 days.
But the second-place team with the best record also gets home-field advantage, and the Twins are now three games ahead of their nearest challenger, Toronto, for that spot, too.
Marwin Gonzalez, Ryan Jeffers, Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson all homered for the Twins, one day after they clubbed Cleveland’s pitching staff, statistically the American League’s best, with five home runs. That two-day total is more home runs than Cleveland had allowed in any entire series in 2020.
“The eight runs we put up yesterday were all because of homers, and then the first six today were homers, too, so it was kind of impressive,” said Gonzalez, who hit the first homer in both games. “It feels good when everybody is capable of doing that, and you can change the game with one big swing.”
The Twins needed those swings, too. Eight of Michael Pineda’s 14 outs were strikeouts, but he allowed eight hits, too. Seven of them were singles, though, helping to limit the damage to three early runs.
“Mike had to work really hard today. Nothing came quickly, nothing came easily,” Baldelli said. “But one thing Big Mike does is, he’s kind of a machine in his own way. He doesn’t really allow what’s going on in the game, the difficulties, the challenging circumstances, who he’s facing, how many guys are on base, umpires’ calls — [he allows] none of that to bother him. Seems like he finds ways to get through innings as well as anyone.”
By doing so, allowing only three runs despite twice putting the first two batters on, he kept Cleveland within reach of the Twins’ home run bats. And they took advantage, with Jeffers providing the tiebreaking runs, and Cruz claiming a share of the AL lead with his 16th of the year.
“It was impressive,” Baldelli said. “I mean, honestly, that’s an impressive series offensively against as good of a pitching staff as I’ve seen in baseball.”