The 2014 Twins used a well-timed late June home series against the White Sox to stop a swoon after a promising start to their season, sweeping Chicago to push their record to 36-38 and restoring hope that, after a 23-21 start, things could in fact be different after a string of brutal losing seasons.
As it turned out, that was not the case. After that sweep of the White Sox, the Twins went on the road on June 24 and proceeded to lose five consecutive games to fall to 36-43. They won their next one, but they were never better than 6 games under .500 for the rest of the season, which proved to be the best of their last four years but was still another 90-loss campaign at 70-92.
This year’s Twins team is coming off a similarly timed and successful home series against the White Sox, taking 2 of 3 after knocking around ace Chris Sale on Wednesday. Now they are set to embark on a 10-game road trip, and while it’s perhaps unfair to say this trip will define their season it’s not too far-fetched to think it will.
Because for as different as this Twins season has felt so far, they’re really not all that far off from where they were a season ago. This year’s version is 39-33, four games ahead of the 36-38 mark last year’s squad had played to at this same general juncture. If the 2015 Twins can expand that lead on the 2014 Twins at the same pace, they will finish around .500 this season — most certainly an improvement.
But it is instructive to remember that Twins teams during their 2011-14 funk have tended to start out better than they finish. Before Aug. 1 in each of those four seasons, their winning percentage was .444. After Aug. 1, their winning percentage was .345.
There are a number of reasons to think this year is, in fact, different — and it begins with the starting pitching, which has been so much better than in past seasons. Good starting pitching tends to stop prolonged slides, and there is also reason to believe the team’s collective recent offensive funk won’t last forever.
But still, this is a dangerous time. If the Twins can make it through this 10-game road trip — during which they are expected to get Ervin Santana back — without the wheels coming off, we will have an important piece of evidence to suggest this year will be different through the finish. If not, look out. Because we’ve seen this story before, and it hasn’t ended well.