Friday, July 10, 2015
The Open Door, And The Twins Stepping Through It
Both the Tigers and the Royals were bit by the injury bug in a bad way recently. Detroit watched stay first basemen Miguel Cabrera head to the disabled list for the first time in his career. Early indications suggest he could be out into September. The hurt at the top of the AL Central doesn't stop there however. Twins killer Alex Gordon also has wound up on the DL and will be there for at least the next 8 weeks.
It's pretty hard to overstate how integral both of these players are for their respective teams. Cabrera and the Tigers are currently in 3rd in the AL Central race. They trail the Twins by just 1.5 games and are 8-2 against Minnesota on the season. Cabrera owns a .350/.456/.578 slash line and has hit 15 round trippers to go with 54 RBI. Just two years removed from winning the Triple Crown, he is every bit the same scary hitter he has been over the course of his career.
For the Royals, Alex Gordon offers value in a different form. Instead of being a beast with the bat, he gets it done with his glove. Gordon is hitting .279/.2394/.457 (one of the best lines of his career) and has added 11 home runs and 39 RBI. As mentioned though, it's in the field where Gordon will be missed. He's been worth 4 DRS (defensive runs saved) and owns a 7.9 UZR paired with a 15.7 UZR/150 rating. Watch enough Twins games against the Royals, and you've likely cursed Gordon taking away a sure base hit.
Now nearing the All Star Break, push must come to shove for the Twins. Minnesota has tread water for quite some time. After a blistering May, Minnesota ran into an ugly month of June. Thanks to losing streaks by Detroit and Kansas City though, the Twins held serve. With both of those teams missing key cogs, it's time to start taking advantage.
The twins split with the Royals to open the month despite the fact that they were in position to win all four games. In the first matchup of the month against the Tigers, a late inning meltdown led to yet another failed opportunity to capitalize. If the Twins want to climb the standings, and create some distance, it will start by reversing the fortunes of a 2-8 record against the Tigers.
With Minnesota not facing either division rival again until September, it will be on them to handle their own business. It's a pretty good bet that both Detroit and Kansas City will experience a downturn with their injuries. While Cabrera and Gordon are out, the Twins must set themselves up for a good September.
Minnesota will need to make some adjustments before the trade deadline if they are going to stay in the race, but the biggest positive for the Twins may have come at the expense of their divisional foes.