Yep, it is time to talk about the Twins again. It was pretty easy to be skeptical of the Twins' recent run, since many of the games were (a) at home, and (b) against weak sister National League teams. But a 5-1 road trip against two credible division opponents, Cleveland and Chicago, indicates that the Twins are actually for real. Now comes the test - the Detroit Tigers are coming to town for a crucial three-game series.
The Detroit Tigers, only three years ago, were one of the worst teams in baseball history. For most of the 2003 campaign, they were challenging the record of the infamous 1962 New York Mets, who managed to win only 25% of their games. The '62 Mets were known for having a collection of has-beens (Richie Ashburn, the first Frank Thomas) and never weres (nearly the entire pitching staff). They were an expansion team and were brutally bad. The 2003 Tigers were different, though - they had three pretty good starting pitchers, but simply could not hit enough to win much. The young pitchers in question - Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Maroth and Rich Robertson, are still part of the squad, while this year the Tigers have unveiled Justin Verlander, a strapping young right-hander who has been as effective as Francisco Liriano has been for the Twins. Add a little hitting, actually a lot of hitting, and suddenly the Tigers are winning 67% of their games, on a current pace to win 109 games. In 2003, they won 43. It's an amazing transformation.
This year, the Tigers have been busily pounding lumps on the Twins, beating them repeatedly earlier in the year, often by shutout. This time it is likely to be different. The Twins have been retooling on the fly all season, replacing the dubious starters of April (Tony Batista, Lew Ford, Ruben Sierra) with significantly more productive players from within their organization (Jason Kubel, Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto). Even injuries to longtime mainstays Shannon Stewart and Torii Hunter have not mattered that much, as players such as Jason Tyner have been key contributors. The Twins have been frighteningly good since Memorial Day, winning 34 of their past 42 games. It should be a fun weekend at the Dome.