Playoff anxiety appears to have already hit the Minnesota Twins’ clubhouse.
The Twins looked uneasy at times during Wednesday night’s 7-4, 12-inning loss to the Tigers, and it’s understandable. Not only did that marathon contest have a postseason vibe to it, but the Twins surely have studied their road map to an American League wild-card berth.
Heading into Thursday night’s series opener against fellow playoff contender Los Angeles, the Twins (75-70) currently sit 1.5 games out of the AL’s second wild-card spot, behind Houston (77-69) and two games ahead of the Angels (73-72).
RACE FOR 2ND AL WILD-CARD BERTH
GMS LEFT VS. .500+
And, of the Twins’ 17 remaining games, 14 are against teams .500 or better.
Let the white-knuckle ride commence, starting with Thursday’s 7:10 p.m. home game against the Angels.
Minnesota hands the ball to starter Tommy Milone in the series opener. Milone is 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA in his last seven starts at Target Field. He’ll look to continue the Twins’ solid run of starting pitching, which has seen Minnesota register nine quality starts in the month of September.
QUALITY STARTS, AL, IN SEPTEMBER
Los Angeles will counter with lefty Hector Santiago (8-9, 3.21 ERA), who is 0-4 over his last five road starts. The Twins are 27-23 against left-handed starters in 2015, giving them the second-most wins in the league against southpaws, trailing only Texas (28 wins).
Minnesota has lost nine of its last 10 meetings with Los Angeles, dating back to the start of last season. Fortunately for Paul Molitor’s squad, Los Angeles is just 6-19 on the road since July 28 — the second-worst road record in the majors during that stretch. The Angels also possess a sputtering offense that averages just 3.97 runs per game.
Getting off to a hot start could be key in this series loaded with playoff implications. Both the Twins and Angels tend to do much of their offensive damage early in games, and both Minnesota (.249) and Los Angeles (.242) are saddled with underwhelming team batting averages.
MLB, BEST RUN-DIFF. IN INN. 1-2
It all should add up to some tight contests at Target Field over the next four days, in a series that will go a long way in determining the Twins’ postseason fate.