Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7), shortstop Jason Bartlett (11) and second baseman Brian Dozier (2) celebrate after they all scored on a double by designated hitter Chris Colabello (not pictured) in the sixth inning at Progressive Field.
David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
As the Minnesota Twins prepare for Monday’s home opener, they do so with a .500 record after a two-game winning streak following Sunday’s 10-7 win over Cleveland.
All things considered, it was a successful first week for the Twins against the White Sox and Indians.
Minnesota is now 3-3 entering its series with Oakland at Target Field. During the Twins’ first six games of the 2014 season, there have already been several bright spots.
Among them is first baseman/designated hitter Chris Colabello, who leads the American League with 11 RBI on the young season. Colabello, who debuted in 2013 with the Twins, had 17 RBI in 55 games last season. With another four RBI today, Colabello continued his hot start to 2014.
Colabello’s biggest at-bat Sunday came with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning. With the score tied, Colabello put Minnesota ahead with a bases-clearing double to center for his ninth, 10th and 11th RBI of the year.
"Any time you get in a situation like that, the pitcher’s the guy with his back up against the wall," Colabello said after Sunday’s win. "I’ve been a guy who’s driven in runs my whole career, so hopefully I just keep doing it."
Colabello hasn’t been the only surprise for Minnesota’s offense. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe has hit safely in all six games and has seven RBI after driving in another run Sunday. Meanwhile, catcher Kurt Suzuki — known more for his defense than his bat — picked up another RBI in the win over the Indians and has driven in five runs so far while batting .429.
Of course, perhaps no moment was more memorable over the last week than Twins manager Ron Gardenhire picking up the 1,000th win of his career. Gardenhire took over for Tom Kelly back in 2002 and led Minnesota to six American League Central titles. With a win Saturday against Cleveland, Gardenhire joined the century club. Sunday’s victory marked No. 1,001 for Gardenhire. It might not have been a pretty win, but it counts just the same as the previous 1,000.
"A good win today. A good battle," Gardenhire said following Sunday’s 10-7 victory. "Guys really competed, and we just kept getting after it."
Many expected the Twins’ offense to struggle scoring runs this season. While it’s only a six-game sample size, that hasn’t been the case so far. Minnesota has now scored 10 runs twice in one week — something it did just six times all season last year — and enters Monday’s home opener averaging 6.33 runs per game.
Pitching, however, has been a different story early on. In fact, Minnesota’s pitching staff has allowed the same number of runs (38) that the Twins’ offense has scored through six games. Right-hander Kyle Gibson is the only Twins starter to pick up a win as he earned the victory Saturday against the Indians.
Minnesota also hopes its bullpen can iron things out for the upcoming homestand. The Twins’ relievers were arguably the strongest and most consistent unit of the team last year. Through the first six games, however, Minnesota’s bullpen has been a bit shaky. Entering Sunday’s game, Twins relievers had a combined ERA of 7.79, the second-highest in baseball. The bullpen gave up a pair of runs in Sunday’s win but closer Glen Perkins had a tidy 1-2-3 ninth inning for his second save as Minnesota improved to .500.
The Twins may have to figure out their outfield situation before Monday’s home opener. Left fielder Josh Willingham left Sunday’s game after he was hit in the hand by a pitch; X-rays were negative and he remains day-to-day. With fellow outfielder Oswaldo Arcia also injured, the Twins had to use infielder Jason Bartlett in left field — just his second time ever playing the outfield. Bartlett had a few adventures in the outfield Sunday, but Minnesota was left with no other options. If Willingham’s injury is more serious than it initially appeared, the Twins may have to make a roster move.
Regardless of the sloppy pitching and interesting defensive alignments, the bottom line is that Minnesota found a way to win Sunday in Cleveland for the Twins’ first series victory of the year. Now they head home to Minneapolis with a chance to go above .500 against the Athletics.
"We had another one there in Chicago we could have won, and we had another one in Chicago we could have lost," Gardenhire said. "The games went kind of crazy there, but yeah, .500 on the road is good. Now go home and take care of home."
FOX Sports North’s Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.