The Minnesota Twins became the first team in baseball to clinch a playoff spot. They still have 10 games remaining to play out the season. 

For manager Ron Gardenhire this is a luxury he has not been afforded in the past.

The past two years, the American League Central division title needed to be determined by extending the season by one game. In 2008, the Twins lost a 1-0 game to the Chicago White Sox. In 2009, the Twins repaid the favor to the Detroit Tigers. Even 163 games wasn’t enough as the tie-breaking game required three extra innings as the Twins won 6-5.

Even the Twins’ divisional title in 2006 was not decided until the final game of the season.

The Twins stumbled into the playoffs, losing the first two games of a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox. 

They clinched the division by winning the the final game of  the series—the final game of the regular season.

Thankfully for the Twins, who were battling with Detroit for the division lead, the Tigers were swept at home by the Kansas City Royals, a team that went into the series with 100 losses.

So what is Gardenhire and the Twins to do?


The Twins are currently battling the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays for the best record in the American League. Currently, the Yankees hold a half-game lead over the Twins, and a two-and-a-half game lead over the Rays.

Should the Twins strive to win as many games as possible to secure home-field throughout the American League playoffs, or rest their regulars and set up their pitching rotation for the playoffs?

I say do both.

The Twins close out the season with a three-game series at Detroit and Kansas City and then host Toronto for four games to end the season.

The Twins are are 9-6 against the Tigers this year and 12-3 against the Royals. If they can win five of six, along with a split against the Blue Jays, the Twins could possibly end the season with a 99-63 record.

Consider that the Yankees’ remaining schedule has two games with the Rays, six against the Red Sox, and three against the Blue Jays, all teams they have a combined record of 22-21, it is entirely possible New York could go 6-5 in their remaining games finishing at 98-64, one game behind Minnesota.

On top of this, after Tampa Bay finishes the series with the Yankees they will face the cellar dwellers of the three divisions—Seattle, Baltimore, and Kansas City, teams they have a combined record of 17-8 against. The best case scenario for the Twins would be for the Rays to go 9-3 in their final 12 games and tie the Yankees at 98-64, and 9-9 versus each other.


How poetic would it be if only the Rays and Yankees had to play an extra game to determine the divisional winner?

Of course, for all of this to occur, the Twins would have to play to win the rest of the season.

With Joe Mauer currently out of the lineup with a sore knee, and Michael Cuddyer having played first base every game except one in place of Justin Morneau, it might be wise to give him a couple of days off.

The bench players, along with September call-ups, have been doing a good job over the past 10 games, providing a rest for the starters, with the Twins winning eight of 10 games. 

In fact, in the third game against the Cleveland Indians, it looked more like the Rochester Red Wings on the field.

Look for Mauer and Cuddyer to get multiple games off over the next week, while Gardenhire assesses his options for the postseason roster.

Outfielder Ben Revere could possibly make it because of his speed, while Jose Morales, a switch-hitting catcher, will get some looks as a potential backup for first base.

Jason Repko could make it as a late-inning defensive outfield replacement.

That leaves Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, and Matt Tolbert to battle for the utility infielder role.


As far the rotation goes, the Twins appear to be set.

Since returning to the rotation, Nick Blackburn is only 3-2 in six starts, but has a 1.81 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. He joins Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, and Brian Duensing.

There is a fine line between resting your regulars and staying sharp. Gardenhire is not practiced in the art of coasting to the finish, so it will be interesting to see what his approach will be.

With an unbalanced schedule, the best record does not always fall to the best team. There have been plenty of people who point out that the top three teams in the AL East would all lead the AL West and contend for the AL Central divisions.

With a 52-25 record at home, the Twins need to strive for the best record in the American League.

The Twins could use every advantage they can get their hands on.

Now, if only they could get Morneau back in the lineup.

Read more MLB news on