Michael Cuddyer said it best when he described the baseball season recently: the first forty games you look to keep close, the next eighty or so you look to pull ahead, and the final forty you look to hold that lead.
The first phase of the season was successful for Minnesota. They stuck right in the race through the first forty games, sticking within four games or so of first place in the American League Central.
Now halfway through the second phase, the Twins are still playing like they’re in the first phase; simply sticking in the race. In 2006 when the Twins won the division, they pulled away, and they did the same when they barely missed out on October baseball last season.
As the Twins entered July and the final game of their nine-game road trip, they were looking to move two games above the .500 mark for the first time this season. Seven times the Twins had been a game above .500, and seven times they lost the next game to fall even in the standings.
The biggest struggle for the Twins as they near the midway point in the season has been getting over the .500 hump. They’ve had no trouble sticking around the mark through the first three months, but staying above it has been another story.
In their eighth attempt to move more than one game above .500, the Twins succeeded. A victory over the Royals not only gives the Twins a 6-3 record on the road trip, it also gets them over one of the initial humps needed to make a playoff run.
How long the Twins maintain it will be the next key. With first-place Detroit visiting the Metrodome this weekend, and the gap potentially only three games, Minnesota has a chance to draw even with a sweep, gain ground with two wins, or fall back with one or fewer victories.