MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins haven’t been shy about their assault on the major league home run record this season. They have two — two! — counters in the stadium, and on Friday, Sept. 6, players were greeted with a replica missile commemorating every one of the record 272 they have hit this season.
But don’t expect the team to start posting its Magic Number, which was 16 heading into Friday night’s 7:10 first pitch against the Cleveland Indians at Target Field. That’s the number of Twins wins, plus losses by their closest competitor, that it will take for them to clinch their first American League Central division since 2010.
That closest competitor is second-place Cleveland, which was sitting 6.5 games back after Thursday’s games.
When asked if he knew the team’s magic number, reliever Tyler Duffey said, “What magic number?”
Closer Tyler Rogers, in the next locker, didn’t know, either; nor did manager Rocco Baldelli.
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It literally doesn’t mean anything at this point,” Baldelli said. “We have to win tonight, and I think everyone else kind of feels the same way. In certain conversations, I’m sure we can talk about it in some other way and kind of go off on some tangents and things like that, but we’ve gotten to this point by just worrying about the day at hand.”
Minnesota has 22 regular-season games remaining, Cleveland 21 with six head-to-head meetings remaining. After this weekend, the teams play three more games in Cleveland Sept. 13-15. So close to the end of the season, every win or loss between the two teams essentially will be a two-game swing.
The last time the Indians were at Target Field, they took three of four games and pulled into a tie for first place. Since then, the Twins are 16-6.
“I don’t think we’ve ever tried to downplay a series, ever, even in April,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Friday. “I just think when you get to this point, you start looking at numbers (and) I think it’s a little easier. If you win or lose a game, you look at, ‘Whoa!’ Your margin to come back is less and less the more games you play.”
The Indians have experience on their side. They won the past three Central Division titles, and lost the 2016 World Series in seven games to the Chicago Cubs.
But the Twins have had at least a piece of first place for all but three days this season.
“We’re going to enjoy the ride,” Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “We’re going to have fun and what happens, happens. They’ve got a great team, we’ve got a good team, so it’ll be fun.”