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Can the Twins chase down the Yankees, Astros for American League's best record?

It's a long shot, but certainly not out of the realm of possibilities.
Author:
Byron Buxton

If the Twins continue playing well through the end of the season, there's an outside chance they pass the Yankees and Astros and claim the best record in the American League. 

It's a long shot considering the Yankees and Astros have favorable schedules, but Minnesota shouldn't be counted out of the race for home-field advantage in the playoffs just yet. 

Standings entering play Wednesday: 

  1. Yankees (91-49)
  2. Astros (90-50)
  3. Twins (86-52)

The Astros trail the Yankees by one game and the Twins are four games back, but just three games separate the Twins and Yankees in the loss column. That's key because Minnesota has played two fewer games than New York and Houston, so if those games are turned into wins, then Minnesota is, hypothetically, just three games out of the top spot. 

That said, it's likely going to take more than 100 wins to claim the best record in the AL. Fangraphs projects the Yankees and Astros to win 104 games, respectively, while the Twins are projected to finish with 100 victories. 

To reach 104 wins the Twins would need to win 18 of their remaining 24 games. It's certainly doable, especially considering they play their final 13 games against the lowly White Sox, Royals and Tigers. 

Minnesota is a combined 31-13 against that trio this season (.705 winning percentage). Winning at the same rate in the remaining 13 games equates to nine wins, so the other nine wins (to reach 104) would need to come in the next 11 games against the Red Sox, Indians and Nationals. 

Clearly, it would be a lot easier to reach 104 if the Twins win 11 or 12 of their final 13 games versus the White Sox, Royals and Tigers. But that's also asking a lot, so it's clear that Minnesota's most realistic path to the AL's top record is by slightly exceeding projections – finishing with 101 or 102 wins – and hoping the Yankees and Astros falter down the stretch. 

Again, unlikely. 

New York's remaining schedule includes games against the Red Sox, Tigers, Blue Jays, Angels and Rays. The Yankees are a combined 36-18 against those opponents. 

Houston's remaining schedule includes games against the Mariners, Athletics, Royals, Rangers and Angels. The Astros are a combined 44-16 against those opponents. 

Bottom line: If the Yankees and Astros play .500 ball the rest of the season, the Twins will need to reach 102 wins just to have a shot at the top record. 

If the playoffs started today, the Twins would head to Houston in a best-of-five divisional series while the Yankees would host a best-of-five divisional series against the winner of the one-game wild-card playoff. 

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