The Minnesota Twins 2014 season is basically a wash. At 52-64, the Twins sit 11.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central and 11 games back in the AL Wild Card. With starting pitching like Yohan Pino, the Twins are not going to make any late-season surge towards the post-season.
What is left for them, however, is to play spoiler. They have 46 games left in 2014, 34 against teams within 5 games of either a division lead or the Wild Card. This includes 11 games against the Tigers, who hold a .5 game lead over the Kansas City Royals as of Monday, August 11.
I am going to look at the five most important series left for the Twins as they attempt to have a direct impact on the playoff hopes of other teams throughout the American League.
5. Los Angeles Angels September 4-7
The Twins are 0-3 against the Angels this season, but will have a shot at home to figure whether or not LA will be playing for a division title or a Wild Card spot. This four game set is in Minnesota, which would make you assume advantage Twins. The Angels have an easier schedule to end the season than the team they are chasing, the Oakland As. Those two teams will play each other 10 times, six of which will be in LA, before the end of the year.
Even with the easy schedule, the Twins would love nothing more than to provide a little bump in the path for the Angles. Will it derail them making the playoffs? No, but it could force the Angels into playing a play-in Wild Card game instead of becoming division winners and avoiding the one-game winner-take-all Wild Card game.
4. Baltimore Orioles - August 29-September 1
Another four game set against a non-divisional opponent. This one is on the road, making it pertinent the Os take three out of four from the Twins in order to establish home-field advantage. The Orioles have separated themselves from the pack of the AL East, holding a five game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays as of Monday, August 11.
A good start to September will be important for the Orioles. They end the season with 13 of their last 16 games against the Blue Jays and the New York Yankees. Both of those teams are treading water and you want to make sure those last few games are not do-or-die ones. Same thing applies here as it does with the Angels. The Twins are not going to be the deciding factor on whether or not the Os make the playoffs, but they can make them sweat it out or knock them into the Wild Card instead of a division title.
3. Kansas City Royals August 26-28
This is the last time these two will play each other before the end of the season. The Twins will have a weekend series against the Royals from August 15-18, but this one holds more importance. The Royals are only a .5 game back of the Tigers on Monday, August 11. THE FRIGGIN ROYALS!!!! I think George Brett was still yelling to someone about pine tar the last time the Royals were relevant in playoff talk.
The Twins are 6-6 against the Royals this season and a couple of series wins before the end of the year could be the difference between the Royals getting into the playoffs and the Royals doing what they usually do in October. Nothing. The Royals usually do nothing in October. The Royals play more games against the Twins than any other team before the end of the year. This one will be influential in their playoff hopes.
2. Cleveland Indians September 19-21
Why is this series number two on the list? I believe the Indians will be squarely in the heat of the Wild Card race. The remainder of their schedule is favorable, with only six games on the road against playoff contenders the remainder of the season. All their other tough series are at home against teams like Baltimore, Detroit and Kansas City.
The Indians square off with the Twins nine times before the end of the year, the most against any team for the Indians. This series comes right at the end of a 10-game road trip for the Indians and there is a chance for the Twins to throw a wrench in some hopes and dreams. If the Twins are able to take two out of three, I think the Indians playoff hopes will be dashed.
1. Detroit Tigers September 25-28
This is the last series of the season for both teams and the Tigers could be looking at one of two things by the end of the 2014 season. 1) Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They are eight games back of the best record in the American League, but they have probably the best pitching staff of any team, outside of Oakland.
2) Keeping the Royals out of the playoffs. If the trend of playing poorly against playoff contending teams continues, the Tigers could find themselves fighting for their lives by the end of the season. Since July 18, the Tigers are 4-11 against teams within five games over either their division or leagues Wild Card.
The schedule does not get any easier for Detroit with series against Pittsburgh, San Francisco and the New York Yankees peppered across the next 47 games. They would like to think 11 of those 47 against the Twins would be easy wins, but the Twins would love nothing more than to destroy the hopes of a Tiger team that just a couple weeks ago looked to have the easiest path to October out of all the playoff contending teams.