The Minnesota Twins finish the 2023 regular season this weekend before heading to the postseason for the first time since 2020.
Last Friday, the Twins clinched a playoff berth at home for the first time since 2010. It is the ninth Central Division crown in club history, but the first since 2020, and the third time in five seasons that Minnesota finished atop the division. Minnesota was out of first place for only three days this season.
“We feel like we’re playing our best baseball right now,” Manager Rocco Baldelli told the MSR inside the clubhouse with the champagne popping and flowing after his team’s 8-6 playoff-clinching win over the Los Angeles Angels. “No matter what happened, the guys continually work their tails off every single day.”
“We never doubted ourselves,” said Michael A. Taylor, one of four U.S.-born Black players on the team.
When Minnesota suffered a mid-season swoon, the Twins’ young players, led by Royce Lewis, picked up the veteran-laden club. The Twins got rolling after the All-Star break.
“I think that was all they needed,” added LaTroy Hawkins, baseball operations special assistant and television analyst. The retired pitcher who played 21 MLB seasons told the MSR, “The older guys were struggling a lot. The younger guys picked up the older guys, and that’s why we are here celebrating with champagne.”
Lewis, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain last week (retroactive to September 21), was on a tear. He hit 11 home runs, 35 RBIs, and a 1.051 OPS in his last 26 games. Overall, in 58 games for the Twins this season, Lewis posted a .309 batting average, 15 HRs, seven doubles, scored 36 runs, with a .372 on-base percentage, a .548 slugging percentage and 52 RBIs.
“We’re a significantly better team when he’s out there,” said Baldelli of Lewis. “He’s been a guy that we needed. And he came up and delivered.”
When the postseason begins in a week, Nick Gordon hopes to rejoin his teammates. The six-foot-one utility player who hit .272 and won Most Improved Twin in 2022, fouled a ball off his right shin on May 17. Later, after tests, he learned he suffered a fractured right shin. He has been on the injured list ever since. On September 12, he got his rehab assignment in St. Paul.
Before taking batting practice at a St. Paul Saints game last week, Gordon talked to the MSR. “I feel really good, definitely around 95 percent,” he said. “I’m just trusting God.”
Doctors typically say shin fractures such as Gordon’s take four to six months to fully recover. But Gordon remains optimistic and continues to work towards full strength.
“Things happen for a reason,” continued Gordon. “I take every day the best I can, to the best of my ability.
“Baseball is the luxury that I get to play,” he stressed. “The bonus part of my life is that I get to praise God, and I’m thankful that He has given me the skills and keeps me going.”
Taylor’s prognosis for the Twins going into the playoffs: “We’ve got to keep playing good baseball and keep believing in ourselves.”