“Don’t bury them until they’re dead” is probably the name of a country music or heavy metal song (possibly both, though I’m afraid to look it up).
Regardless, it most certainly is the emerging theme of the 2017 Twins season. The year is barely half over, and I can count five times already when fans strongly wondered if it was time to start planning a baseball funeral, only to have the Twins — and the natural ebb and flow of a 162-game season — force a cancellation of the burial.
Conveniently, it happens every few weeks or so. Here is a brief look at what got the Twins into and out of trouble:
Sunday, April 2: OK, this is kind of a trick answer because it was the Sunday before the season started. But let’s face it: pretty much every Twins fan looked at the roster, considered that Minnesota lost 103 games last year and thought this would be another wasted year. Even the most optimistic opinion seemed to be “they might not lose 90 games,” which indeed would be a double-digit improvement on last season. But then the year started and the Twins sprinted to a 5-1 start with crisp play and timely hitting. Who were these guys, anyway?
Sunday, April 23: This was the first time many of us felt the other shoe had officially dropped on the season. That 5-1 start had faded quickly into an 8-10 record, the last loss of which was a 13-4 pummeling by the Tigers in which Kyle Gibson was rocked. The Twins couldn’t win at home and were about to hit the road. The Wild season ended the previous day. It was looking like a long summer. And then … the Twins won 11 of their next 13 road games, springing back to life.
Wednesday, May 31: Uh-oh. The Twins lost their fourth consecutive game — outclassed three times by the Astros after a devastating 15-inning loss to the Rays — to drop to 26-23. They were down to a tie for the division lead, their bullpen was a mess and the rotation didn’t look much better. It was a fun two months, we thought, but it had to end sometime. That time was now. But … then the Twins went on what should be a kiss of death 10-game road swing out West and pulled itself together with a 6-4 trip.
Sunday, June 18: OK, it’s really over. The Twins fell to 34-33 after being swept in four home games by Cleveland, which took over the division lead in the process. The Indians were going to run away with it now. Until … the Twins won five of their next six, including a three-game sweep of the Indians in Cleveland.
Sunday, July 2: The Twins limped to the halfway point with their sixth loss in eight games, putting them barely over .500 at the midpoint (41-40). We all knew it wasn’t sustainable, with all the doubleheaders and the thin bullpen. At least they got us within a few weeks of Vikings training camp. But … two bounceback wins against the Angels followed. The Twins are somehow still 1.5 games behind Cleveland for the division lead and in a tie for the final Wild Card spot. If they can get to the All-Star break in decent shape and get those pitchers some rest, they might just be OK — at least until the first freak out after the break.