Twins looking to disrupt AL playoff race
MINNEAPOLIS — On Tuesday afternoon, a pair of major league outfielders shared a brief exchange on Twitter. The original post was by Baltimore's Adam Jones, who tweeted: "Gotta get after it. #StayHungry" as his team prepared to take on the Toronto Blue Jays.
Jones' tweet was in regard to Baltimore's chase for an American League wild card spot — or perhaps an AL East title. The Orioles entered Tuesday atop the wild card standings but 1.5 games back of the first-place New York Yankees.
Those same Yankees are in Minnesota for a three-game series, and Twins center fielder Denard Span responded to Jones' tweet with one of his own, saying, "we trying to help y'all out man."
Turns out, Span single-handedly helped out Jones and the Orioles as his two-run double in the seventh inning of Tuesday's game put the Twins ahead for good as they beat the Yankees by a 5-4 final. Baltimore lost 4-0 Tuesday to Toronto and remains 1.5 games behind New York, but the Twins did their part to play the role of spoiler.
"It's definitely better being on the other side, trying to get into the playoffs," Span said after Tuesday's win. "It brings back some memories. It wasn't that long ago that we were trying to battle for a playoff spot."
The spoiler role certainly isn't a position that Minnesota wants to be in at this point of the season, but that's the reality of the situation for the 65-90 Twins. They played that same spoiler role over the weekend, taking two out of three games from the Tigers on the road. Through Tuesday, Detroit and Chicago are in a tie for first place in the AL Central. The Twins will have another chance to impact the race for the division title as they host the Tigers for three games this weekend.
"Beating Detroit was great because they're in a race. You kind of get caught up in these races," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "We know they're battling over here. It's a great baseball team and we know where they're at. Hopefully you can just jump in and get in the mix, and I think our guys are rising to the occasion."
It wasn't that long ago that the Twins were on the other side of the coin, trying to avoid losing to so-called spoilers as Minnesota chased division titles. Since winning the AL Central in 2010, however, the Twins have suffered back-to-back losing seasons. After losing 99 games a year ago, Minnesota now has 90 losses with seven games remaining.
Four of those games will come against teams that are in tightly contested playoff races. The Twins will do their part to make things difficult for New York and Detroit.
"That's all we can do," said reliever Glen Perkins, who earned his 15th save by closing out Tuesday's game. "We've put ourselves in a position where we're not impacting our season so we can go out there and win games against teams that are fighting for the playoffs. If that's all we get out of it, that's what we get, and that's our goal right now."
Span put the Twins ahead for good with a two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning against Yankees reliever Boone Logan. During Span's at-bat, Logan threw a wild pitch that scored Ryan Doumit from third base.
After falling behind in the count 2-1, Logan eventually filled the count on a ball in the dirt. His 3-2 slider to Span hung up just enough for the Twins center fielder to flip a double to right-center field.
"Right there, honestly, my approach to a lefty is to get ready for the fastball and react off the breaking ball," Span said. "But in the back of my mind I was thinking with the base open, he's probably going to try to get me to chase that same slider that I chased a couple pitches before that. He left a pitch up for me to get a good swing on."
Span's double made it a 4-3 Twins lead, and he later scored on a single by Joe Mauer to push the lead to 5-3. Despite a solo homer from Andruw Jones in the top of the ninth, the Yankees couldn't rally and failed to extend their lead over Baltimore in the AL East.
The Twins will get one more crack at the Yankees in Wednesday's series finale, with CC Sabathia on the hill for New York. Span is hoping he can perhaps help out his friend Jones and the Orioles one more time.
"I saw they lost tonight, and we were able to get a win to kind of help them out a little bit. So we'll see," Span said. "If we can beat CC tomorrow, maybe I'll text him and see if he'll buy me dinner next spring training.
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