MINNEAPOLIS — Over the last four years, the Minnesota Twins didn’t particularly have a good record at home.
Then again, it didn’t seem to matter where the Twins played during the 2011-14 seasons, when Minnesota lost 90-plus games four straight years.
As the Twins closed the book Thursday on their recent 11-game homestand with a 6-5 win over Oakland, they did so with the American League’s best home record (12-5). Minnesota went 8-3 at Target Field over the last 11 games and, in doing so, improved to three games over .500 for the first time since the final game of the 2010 season. This, of course, comes after Minnesota started the year 1-6.
"Obviously it’s better we’re winning, but we had this confidence in that Week 1. It’s hard to show it when we have a 1-6 record," said Twins first baseman Trevor Plouffe. "We knew we could do it, but talk is cheap. You’ve got to go out there and win, and that’s what we’ve been doing lately."
Thursday’s win gave the Twins another series victory, their fifth already this year in nine series. Minnesota won both four-game series this homestand, including a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox before taking three of four from the A’s.
Minnesota finished 35-46 at Target Field last season en route to an overall record of 70-92. They were 32-49 at home in 2013, 31-50 at Target Field in 2012 and had a home record of 33-48 in 2011. Before the season started, new manager Paul Molitor put an emphasis on protecting the team’s hold-field advantage.
Through two homestands in 2015, that message appears to have been received.
"It’s early. It’s a nice trend," Molitor said. "We have tried to make that a little bit of a point. When you start to try to change the fortunes of the direction you’re going, it kind of starts with how you play in your home park. I don’t know if they’ve taken it to heart or if they think about it a lot, but we have played well at home so far."
Thursday’s win was thanks to another solid day by the offense and four shutout innings from Minnesota’s bullpen after Twins starter Ricky Nolasco gave up four runs in five innings. Nolasco fell behind 2-0 in the second inning but Minnesota’s lineup — like it did so often during this homestand — picked up the starting pitcher. Thanks to a sacrifice fly by rookie Eddie Rosario, the Twins led 3-2 after two.
Nolasco again fell behind, this time after a couple of two-out, two-strike RBI by Oakland in the third inning that put Minnesota in a 4-3 hole. Once again, the offense came to life to retake the lead. Rosario’s single to center in the fourth tied it at 4, and Eduardo Escobar’s two-run single to right in the fifth proved to be the game-winner.
Minnesota’s bullpen combined for four shutout innings, including a four-out save for closer Glen Perkins. Right-hander Blaine Boyer continued his hot streak, too, extending his scoreless innings streak to 11 1/3.
Over the 11-game homestand, the Twins scored 12 or more runs three times and five or more runs seven times. Minnesota has yet to be shut out at home and averaged 6.6 runs per game during the homestand.
"I think we’re just having good at-bats. We’re not giving away too many of them," Plouffe said. "We’re hitting with runners in scoring position. I think throughout our line, we have guys that can get on base and guys that can drive in runs. So if the middle of our lineup’s not doing it that day, the bottom of our lineup has been stepping up and vice-versa. I think we’re pretty balanced one through nine. That’s how you’re going to have a good offense is if you’re balanced like that."
Now Minnesota has to figure out a way to keep the home cooking rolling on the road. The Twins head to Cleveland for three games against the Indians, followed by a three-game series in Detroit before heading back home next weekend.
The Twins won’t have the luxury of playing at Target Field over the next six games, but this team’s confidence is growing to the point where they believe they can win wherever they’re playing.
"Playing well here is always good for the fans and good for us," Nolasco said. "As long as we can just keep it going onto the road."