I've been waiting for an appropriate time to write my "Why I Think The Twins Have It This Year" post, and I feel that time has come. Why? Because of last night.
Playing the lowly Royals, and knowing that Detoit has already lost, Brad Radke makes his comeback from a stress fracture in his shoulder. It's his last year (he's already said he's retiring), and a first-place position is on the line. The Tigers have had a lock on sole possession of first place in the AL Central since May 21st. In early August, the Twins were over 10 games back.
Radke throws 57 pitches over five innings, allowing only one unearned run on three hits. He's back. He provides the Twins with a solid, veteran presence as the third starter in their post-season rotation. Still, the bats were cold, as inning after inning rolled by with the Royals clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Bottom of the ninth, two outs, and Joe Mauer comes to the plate. How storybook is this? The first catcher to win a batting title since the 1950s (at this point I don't know if it's even mathematically possible for him not to win it). The drama was high. What does he do? Why, he belts one out of the park to tie it up and send it to extra innings. I only watched the highlight this morning, and it was tough to keep it down to a dull roar. It was that exciting. Of course, the Twins pull it out in the bottom of the 10th inning and claim a tie with the Tigers for first place.
It's these kind of games that make me think the Twins have it this year.
I've been very blessed to see my team win two World Series in my lifetime, to grow up idolizing Kirby Puckett. And yes, I believe I can tell when a year is special. I felt it in 1987 and 1991, and I feel it this year. Games where the Twins come back in improbable fashion make that feeling stronger. When a whole season is considered an improbable comeback, that feeling goes off the charts.
Player for player, I think these Twins are more stacked than either World Series champion team from their past. We have Johan Santana, the most dominant and fearsome pitcher in baseball today, a shoe-in for Cy Young. We have the aforementioned Joe Mauer, AL batting champ. We have Justin Morneau, top two in MVP voting easy. Cuddyer has over 100 RBIs. There hasn't been a 30 HR hitter in a Twins uniform since 1987, and now we have two, Morneau and Torii Hunter. We have a bullpen that is simply sick. We have at least three solid starters for the rotation. The only team that compete with the Twins is the Yankees.
I really like this team, because they never fold. Losing streaks are abruptly stopped, games are salvaged, they persevere. I think it's their consistency since early June that has impressed me the most. They've had their hot streaks, but they really have stayed very competitive for a long period of time.
I'll call it right now, championship!