Rocco Baldelli’s office, newly refurbished to create a warm, cabin-like feel, was packed shoulder to shoulder with media from the local papers, online outlets and local television. Baldelli sat calmly, as though he was up in Brainerd for a lake weekend rather than managing a team about to play a series against the Cleveland Indians, who are two games back in the AL Central.
Win this series and they could create meaningful separation from the hard-charging Tribe. Lose it and their one-time 11.5 lead in the division could be eclipsed. A season’s worth of effort diminished in four games.
“We’re going to play a lot of important games and series hopefully as the season goes on,” said Baldelli. “We still have a long way to go. This series right now does not affect us any more than any series going forward.”
Excuse me? Come again.
“Regardless of how any given game goes … when we show up the next day [that mentality] allows our guys to simply focus and concentrate on what they have to do and relax and go out there and do their jobs,” he added. “I think any change, any switch from that probably sounds some sort of alarm, but there’s no alarms to sound.”
Pretty ironic, given that the Bomba Squad has sounded alarms at Target Field all year long.
In fact, they could break the Twins all-time home run record against Cleveland this weekend. Even in the two games they lost to the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves preceding this series, Minnesota’s offense came to life late. Unfortunately Jose Berrios turned in his worst start of the season in Game 2, and Martin Perez gave up six runs the next day.
The Twins’ even-keeled mentality has served them well all year long. They have only lost three games in a row once before the Cleveland series, and have bounced back well after losing blowout games.
Even with the increased media attention and the obvious importance of the series, the clubhouse was as calm as it had been all year long. Most of the players were at their lockers looking at their phones or chatting with each other at a table in the middle of the room. It had the same vibe as the Kansas City Royals series last weekend.
Regardless of how these four games against Cleveland go, Minnesota’s schedule lightens up after they play the Indians. They will face the Milwaukee Brewers, who are in the mix in the NL Central, immediately after, but then they play on the road against the Texas Rangers, at home vs. the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, and then on the road against… the White Sox and Tigers.
Cleveland, on the other hand, gets the Boston Red Sox at home, and the New York Yankees and Mets on the road.
This series matters, but so do the ones that come after. The Bombas seem confident they’ll set off an alarm — the one that causes other teams to panic because of their unprecedented power.