The Phillies seem to be clicking. With Trea Turner and Nick Castellanos being their best selves, the offense is once again hitting home runs, and the team has won their last three series. They’ve put up a combined 11-3 record across those games and have surged into the National League’s top Wild Card spot.
After dismissing the last place Nationals, the Phillies will welcome a first-place team from the American League this weekend. And while the Minnesota Twins will assuredly be a step up in competition, we shouldn’t let their first-place status trick us into thinking this is a great team.
The American League Central is dreadful this season, and the Twins will likely win it simply because somebody has to. And chances are, once the Twins get to the postseason, they’ll quickly lose. Because that’s what the Twins do: Lose playoff games. 18 straight of them in fact.
Record: 60-57, First place in American League East
You probably remember Rocco Baldelli as a hotshot Rays prospect from the early 2000s. After a strong start (Third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2003), injuries derailed his career, and he eventually moved into coaching.
The Rays #1 prospect Rocco Baldelli reporting for duty back in 2003. pic.twitter.com/73ivWWv3eo— Jeff (@MNTwinsZealot) October 18, 2020
As a manager, Baldelli similarly got off to a good start. The Twins won the AL Central in 2019 and 2020, and he was named AL Manager of the Year in 2019. But he didn’t win a single playoff game either year - Remember, losing playoff games is what the Twins do - and the team has finished out of the running the past two seasons.
Baldelli is actually in an enviable situation considering that the endless playoff failures have lowered the bar in Minnesota. Basically, if he can get the team to the playoffs and win a game (not a series, mind you. Let’s not ask for miracles), he’ll probably be considered immortal in the eyes of Twins fans.
The last time they met
While they’ll regularly square off in Grapefruit League play, the Phillies and Twins haven’t met in a regular season game since the Twins visited Citizens Bank Park in April 2019. The Phillies took two of three in that series, thanks in part to one of Rhys Hoskins’ hot streaks (two home runs in the series).
What’s the deal with the Twins?
The Twins might be the Major League’s okayest team. They’re very good at home (33-24) and bad on the road (27-33). They have a mediocre offense, ranking near the middle in most offensive categories. The pitching staff is good, not great, and their best starting pitcher might be living trade rumor Sonny Gray.
Seeing how his name is heavily mentioned in trade rumors every offseason and July, I’m not 100% convinced he’s an actual person rather than a name created by an artificial intelligence tasked with coming up with hot stove and trade deadline stories.
In addition to Gray, the other starting pitchers the Phillies will face this weekend are Dallas Keuchel, firmly in the “He’s still playing?” phase of his career, and former Marlin Pablo Lopez who had an unfortunate habit of pitching well against the Phillies when he was with Miami.
About those playoff failures
The Twins’ have lost 18 straight playoff games, and I wouldn’t have thought a team could lose 18 straight even if they tried. It’s one thing to miss the playoffs for an extended period of time, (like say, the Phillies did), but if you make the postseason field enough times, you’d think you’d somehow find a way to win at least one series, let alone a single game!
The last time the #MNTwins won a playoff game (Oct. 5, 2004):— Tyler Mason (@tylermason21) October 8, 2019
•Twitter and YouTube didn't exist
•Facebook was less than a year old
•George W. Bush was still in his first term as president
•Luis Arraez was 7 years old
•Rocco Baldelli just finished his second year as a player
In that timespan, the Phillies ended a thirteen-year playoff drought, won a World Series, endured another ten-year playoff drought, and won another National League pennant.
The battle of disappointing free agent shortstops
Now that Phillies fans fixed him with their loud ovations last weekend, Trea Turner is arguably not the biggest disappointment out of the free agent shortstop class of 2023. That “honor” should probably go to the Twins’ Carlos Correa who is not thriving in his first season in the Twin Cities.
It’s not a huge shock that Correa is having a rough go of it considering the oddness that resulted in him signing with the Twins in the first place.
Carlos Correa's offseason:— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) January 10, 2023
Oct. 13: Correa opts out of Twins contract
Dec. 13: Giants sign 13-year, $350M deal
Dec. 21: Giants postpone deal with concerns over physical; Mets sign 12-year, $315M deal
Dec. 24: Mets concerned with physical
Jan. 10: Twins sign 6-year, $200M deal
It’s probably somewhat awkward to be back with the Twins after saying you actually preferred to be two other places. On the bright side, the ankle which is apparently a physical-failing ticking time bomb, has held up okay so far.
The Twins as an MCU villain
Note: I normally only do MCU villains for road series, but since the Tournament of Randomess concluded and the Phillies don’t play in Minnesota, I decided to change things up.
The Twins home road splits indicate that they owe much of their success to their home realm, much like Hela drew her power from the realm of Asgard. And just as the Twins always falter upon reaching the playoffs, whenever Hela gets a chance to succeed on a grander scale, she’s quickly put down by someone more powerful than she is (Odin, Surtur).
Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) pic.twitter.com/eurWxKiRXG— Paola (@Jailbirdss) October 3, 2021
Last series’ answer: Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz homered in the first inning of the Eric Bruntlett game. Chappdaddy almost got it, but went with Feliz instead of Ruiz.
This series’ question: In 2010, two former Phillies hit home runs against their former team while playing for the Twins. Who were they?
The Twins are assuredly better than the Nats, but they’re also a team the Phillies should beat. Hopefully the offense continues to produce, and the Phillies can open up a little bit of a lead in the Wild Card race.