A Twins Optimist’s Last Stand for 2011

It’s now bordering on delusional.

The belief that the Minnesota Twins can leap-frog three teams and overcome a 10-game deficit with just 45 games left to play is shaky, at best. But even now, with two of their most consistent players this season the latest to get hurt – All-Star Michael Cuddyer will reportedly be out of the lineup for Friday night’s game with the Indians, following recent DL-addition Scott Baker – there is still a chance, and it starts tonight.

To have any chance at the postseason, Minnesota will likely need to play at a .700 clip or better (32 or 33 wins), and the team’s schedule gives them a shot to do it against the teams that matter most.

With three-game series in Cleveland and Detroit up next on the schedule, the Twins start a home stretch in which 25 of their final 45 games are against the three teams ahead of them in the standings – the Indians (nine games), Tigers (nine) and Chicago White Sox (seven).

The returns of first baseman Justin Morneau and shortstop Alexi Casilla should provide a jolt to the lineup. If Cuddyer’s injury is only a minor setback, the Twins could finally have the potentially explosive lineup they had hoped to have all season.

But even if the batting order becomes more productive, the Twins will need their maddeningly inconsistent (and hittable) starting rotation – which, ironically enough, has been the healthiest part of the club all year – to fall in line.

Still, the club is made up of seasoned veterans that have been through situations like this before. And with the probability of a shake-up of next year’s roster (Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young, Jim Thome, Danny Valencia, Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing will all be up for new contracts in 2012), there’s also the hope that this group is wanting to make one last run together and not counting down the days until the season ends.

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