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12-game gauntlet is key to Twins holding off Indians in AL Central race

After facing Detroit Monday, things get really tough for the Twins.
Nelson Cruz

Labor Day has arrived and with it comes the final push for the MLB postseason, and while the Yankees and Astros are in a two-team race for the American League's best record, it appears that the only division still up for grabs is the AL Central race between the Twins and Indians. 

Entering play Monday, the Twins lead the Indians by 5.5 games. It's a significant gap, but the next two weeks will likely decide just how close things are in the end because after the Twins face Detroit Monday afternoon, they enter a 12-game gauntlet in which they'll be tasked with keeping Cleveland at bay. 

Minnesota's 12-game gauntlet: 

  • 3 at Red Sox
  • 3 vs. Indians
  • 3 vs. Nationals
  • 3 at Indians

That's a nasty stretch of games. Simply getting torched by Cleveland is all it would take for the 5.5-game lead to disappear. But the Red Sox and Nationals should also worry Twins fans. 

Boston is 11-4 in its last 15 games and still owns one of baseball's best offensive attacks, which could be trouble for a Minnesota starting staff that outside of Michael Pineda has been average at best since the All-Star break. 

The Nationals, meanwhile, have won 16 of 19 entering play Monday, led by a lineup of hot bats that have scored seven or more runs in 15 of those 19 games. They also boast one of the best starting pitching staffs in the majors, led by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. 

As it stands now, Minnesota is scheduled to face Strasburg and Corbin when they meet Sept. 10-12. 

The division race is really all that matters for the Twins. According to FanGraphs, the Yankees and Astros are each projected to finish with 104 wins, while the Twins are projected to reach 99 wins. It would take a stunning September for the Twins to chase down either team in the race for home-field advantage.  

If the Twins do hang on to win the AL Central, they'll guarantee a spot in the best-of-five division round of the playoffs and avoid an anxiety filled one-game wild-card playoff against the Rays or Athletics, both of whom are surging. 

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