The Twins accomplished job No. 1 on Wednesday by completing a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals which now makes the club 4-1 this month with plenty of winnable games still to come.
I can’t emphasize this enough because the time is now. The Twins face nothing but weak competition in July, so if they want to make a serious move in the AL Central this is the month to do it. After the Royals, the Twins face the suddenly slumping Orioles, then the A’s, then the Mariners, White Sox and Mariners again, then end the month against the Royals. See what I mean? Make no mistake or it could be costly.
Pablo Lopez and the Twins won 5-0 on Wednesday, making it the best start of his career. He pitched his first complete game, his first career shutout and he set a new career high in strikeouts with 12 to blank the Royals on four hits.
The Twins have Thursday off, then welcome the Orioles to town. Bailey Ober gets the ball Friday.
Extra innings …
-The Twins are now two games over .500 at 45-43 and have a two-game lead on the Cleveland Guardians.
-The club outscored the Royals 22-7 over the three games. If the Twins can equal their excellent starting pitching with some halfway decent run-scoring, they should be fine during the second half of the season.
-Helping matters is that the previously slumping Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are both hitting well over .300 in the past week.
-Lopez’s line: He allowed four hits over nine innings with no runs, no walks and 12 strikeouts on precisely 100 pitches, 75 of them landing for strikes.
-On July 5, 1970, Twins starter Jim Perry went the distance in a 13-1 rout of the Oakland A’s at Metropolitan Stadium, which helped the Twins regain the lead in the AL West. The only run for the A’s was a tape-measure shot hit by Reggie Jackson.
After the game, Twins manager Billy Martin said it was one of the three longest home runs he had ever seen. The other two were hit by Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew.
Martin told The Minneapolis Tribune that the long home runs had nothing to do with a “livelier” ball.
“The kids are stronger now than they used to be,” Martin told the paper. “When these kids break swimming records, you don’t hear anybody asking if the water is lighter or heavier than it used to be.”
Sources: MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com