Are the Twins contenders or pretenders?


Don't look now, but the Minnesota Twins are 18-14 and in the thick of things in the American League Central race.

Entering Monday's action the Twins sit in third place, one game behind Detroit and 2.5 games behind the first-place Royals.

While Detroit and Kansas City, the reigning American League champion, were expected to win a lot of games, those who believed in the Twins were few and far between until this latest stretch of winning – a stretch that includes 17 wins and only 8 losses since a season-opening 1-7 dry spell.

The winning has started to change the skepticism about the Twins, judging from the latest power rankings around the league:

Bleacher Report ranks the Twins No. 15: "... another 5-2 performance that included series wins against the Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics, they have officially forced their way into the upper half of the rankings and are eyeing a spot in the top 10 if they keep it up." ranks the Twins No. 12 and ESPN ranks them No. 12.

The Twins have scored 151 runs – the sixth most in Major League Baseball. But scoring is not really new – the Twins finished seventh in the majors in runs last year.

What's the biggest difference between the Twins in 2014 and in 2015? Twins Blogger Rhett Bollinger notes it's really the pitching that's improved.

"It's the pitching that's been the biggest surprise, as Minnesota hurlers have combined to post a 4.07 ERA, which is tied for the 16th-best mark in the Majors. It's a marked improvement from their 4.57 ERA last year that ranked as the second-worst team ERA in the Majors."

But Bollinger notes the pitching staff is still having a tough time striking out opposing hitters. So far Twins pitchers have just 167 strikeouts in 283 innings. Given the defensive troubles in the outfield, Bollinger thinks it could be tough for the pitching staff to keep it up unless they strike out more batters.

Next Up

smoke, hazy sky, wildfire smoke

Hazy conditions may lift temporarily, but smoke will keep coming for MN

Drifting smoke "will likely remain with us for a while," one group warned.

Pixabay - covid face mask bicycle bike

Number of MN counties with high, substantial COVID transmission hits 64

Nine days ago, 14 counties passed that threshold. We're now up to 64.

rowdi billboard

Six months on, devoted family not giving up search to find missing Rowdi

Rowdi went missing on the North Shore in February, but Cory Carlson has hope Rowdi is still alive.

Pixabay - hospital emergency room sign

Woman suffers fractured neck, leg after driver blows through stop sign

The crash happened early Thursday about 20 miles outside of Detroit Lakes.

suni lee

Watch: Suni Lee reunites with family after winning 3 Olympic medals

Suni said she wouldn't be where he is today without her family.

Julie blaha and melisa franzen

Blaha, Franzen reveal extent of injuries suffered in crash

The state auditor and state senator were driving home from FarmFest.

covid vaccine card

More than 11K Minnesotans signed up for $100 COVID incentive on Day 1

The new vaccination rewards program opened on Wednesday, and it has proven quite popular among the newly vaccinated.

jeremy jones richardson - pine county

Charges: Man broke into friend's home, killed him with his cane

Pieces of the victim's cane were found on his back, charges say.

Awwal Adebayo Ladipo Go Fund Me hospital

Charges: Fatal punch after fight led to fractured skull, brain bleed

The victim, a 25-year-old St. Cloud State grad, died two days later.

Pixabay - school - classroom

Minneapolis Public Schools to require face masks for staff, students

The rule goes into effect Monday, and will continue at the start of the new school year.