The Minnesota Twins won 20 games in August, going 20-10 for the month, good for a .667 winning percentage, their best of the year. Here are 20 observations on the club at this point of the season, and what to watch for in the final month, as they compete for a Wild Card spot.
1. The Twins started the month with a view, from the outside, of a team that was looking towards next season. They traded closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals and also dealt Jaime Garcia to the Yankees, after acquiring him to bolster a rotation in hopes of a division title.
2. After the deadline, the Twins continued a swoon, as losing three of five to start the month, but then won six straight, and seven of eight games to put themselves back in position to compete for a playoff spot.
3. The Twins started the month, 6.5 games back of the Indians. They were able to get to only 3.5 games back, but then the Indians took off, they are currently in the midst of a 12 game winning streak, and stood 6.5 games back at the end of August and now are 10 games back on September 5th.
4. But the Indians hot streak didn't stop the Twins from competing for a Wild Card as they worked their way into the second wild card spot and currently have a .5 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels.
5. One of the big reasons for the emergence has been the steady performance of Bartolo Colon who was acquired in mid-July. So far as a Twin, he has thrown five innings eight times, and six-plus six of nine starts.
6. His best start came on August 9th against Milwaukee when he tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing only five hits and one walk while striking out five.
7. But his best start may not be his most notable. His most notable came on August 4th, when he became the oldest Twin to pitch a complete game at 44 years and 72 days old, and the second oldest since Nolan Ryan in 1992 to throw a complete game and win.
8. As a whole Colon has gone 4-2 in his nine starts, throwing 55 innings, with a 4.09 ERA and 33 strikeouts.
9. Another surprise has been Kyle Gibson.
10. Gibson struggled throughout the year but Gibson has now provided three straight starts (including his start on September 2nd) that have gone six-plus innings, allowing less three runs. On August 22 against the White Sox, Gibson tossed seven innings of one run ball, then in his next start on the 27th in Toronto he tossed 6.2 innings, allowing two runs, then in his last start on September 2nd, he went six scoreless.
11. The contributions of Colon, Gibson, and Dillon Gee, have been integral to the team's success as they have had to deal with injuries in the rotation.
12. And with the trade of Brandon Kintzler another reliever had to step up in that role and Matt Belisle did just that.
13. Belisle's bad outing on August 12th against Detroit caused his ERA to balloon to 4.50 but overall he has five saves and has struck out 14 in his eight innings in August.
14. Offensively, rather than starting with Miguel Sano (we'll get to him later) we have to start with a different former top prospect... Byron Buxton.
15. Buxton struggled mightily in the first half. Striking out 87 times and hitting a measly .216. But since then he has hit .351, including an average of .324 in August.
16. Overall Buxton has been a catalyst for this offense with his speed and sudden power surge. Buxton swiped eight bases in August, and also hit eight home runs, including a three-homer performance against the Blue Jays, as he has now set a career high for home runs in a season with 13. Buxton had a batting line of .324/.354/.619 with an OPS of .973 and an OPS+ (OPS adjusted for park variables with 100 being average) of 158.
17. But Buxton wasn't the only one stepping up while Sano recovers from a stress reaction in his left shin.
18. Jorge Polanco went on a power surge in August, hitting six home runs, all against the Chicago White Sox, as he hit .373/413/.686 with an OPS of 1.099 and an OPS+ of 201. He also had 10 doubles and 23 RBI while stealing four bases.
19. And then of course, Eddie Rosario was superb for the Twins as he hit .307 for the month, with a season high 9 home runs for the month of August with 7 doubles.
20. Now to this month of September, the final month of the regular season. The Twins started out poorly losing two of three to Kansas City, and lost their first game in St. Petersburg to the Rays. That allowed the Angels to get within a half game of that second Wild Card spot. They have another six games left on this road trip, then are home for six, but the big season defining test will come from September 18-September 28 when they are on a ten game road trip, playing the New York Yankees, holder of the top Wild Card spot, then they go to Detroit for four, and then finish it off with three games against the Cleveland Indians. How the Twins fare on that road trip will decide if the Twins go to the playoffs or not.