Twins on being MLB best 23-12: 'It's a different feeling'

The Minnesota Twins left Spring Training feeling confident about their chances to have a turnaround season after winning 78 games last year and having the manager dismissed.

The team chemistry was there, and they added key veterans in the offseason. Few could’ve predicted what would follow. On May 10, as the Twins prepare to host the Detroit Tigers to start a seven-game home stand, they are the best team in Major League Baseball at 23-12. That’s without one of their top sluggers in Miguel Sano.

The Twins completed a three-game sweep at Toronto with a 9-1 victory Wednesday night. They beat the Blue Jays over three games by a combined 20-1, and hit eight homers in the series.

They formed a chemistry before leaving Florida in March, and it’s translated on the field.

“We’re going to figure it out together. We’re going to fight together, we’re going to win together, we’re going to lose together. Everything we do, we’re going to do it together,” said infielder Jonathan Schoop. “We fight every night and go out there and leave it out there. Leaving everything out there trying to win, and don’t forget to have fun and everything will be good.”

Schoop, who signed with the Twins in free agency after playing in Baltimore, is one of seven players on the team with at least six home runs. Eddie Rosario’s 13 homers leads the team, is tied for the American League lead and is third in MLB.

The Twins are also slugging .495, which is the best in baseball. That’s right, nearly half of their hits go for extra bases. Catcher Mitch Garver was the lone Twins player to homer in Tuesday night’s win, a laser to left field. What’s more impressive, he was hit with a broken bat while catching in the first inning and suffered a cut on his neck.

He stayed in the game, and with Jason Castro out with an injured elbow and Willians Astudillo out with a hamstring injury, C.J. Cron was the emergency catcher. They could laugh about it after the win, but Garver’s two-run shot gave the Twins breathing room.

Garver labeled the Twins’ offense as “dangerous.”

“It’s a different feeling this year. We have so many guys that contribute on a daily basis. You never know who it’s going to be at any given night so there’s less pressure on individuals to perform," Garver said. “At the same time, everybody is playing at such a high level that we want to be that guy. I think we’re playing some really good baseball right now.”

There’s been a mentality shift with the Twins. That came with some key offseason acquisitions, and it turned into wins on the field.

They now show up to the clubhouse with the expectation that they’re going to win every night they take the field.

“It’s a feeling that you always want your team to have. When you show up, the thought should be we’re going to go out here and win,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think our guys should be confident, I think they’ve earned it.”

It helps when the pitching has been equally as dominant. Jose Berrios has been the ace for the Twins this season. He hasn’t been flawless, but he gives the Twins a chance to win every time he’s on the mount. Berrios is 6-1 on the season with a 2.53 earned run average with 51 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings.

Jake Odorizzi, Friday night’s starter, is 4-2 on the season with a 2.78 ERA. Martin Perez is 5-0 with a 2.83 ERA. Kyle Gibson is coming off giving up one run and striking out 11 at Toronto Wednesday night.

It’s early May, but the Twins are hitting on all cylinders. They lead the American League Central Division by 3.5 games over Cleveland and appear to be in control of the division, even if it is just 35 games.

“Doesn’t matter really how early it is. I think the old saying is you can’t really win the division this early, but you can definitely lose it,” first baseman C.J. Cron said. “It’s nice that we put ourselves in a good position playing the first month and change, and it’s been fun to be a part of so far.”

After four games against the Tigers this weekend, the Twins host the 17-20 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for three games early next week.

The team that once moved station-to-station, scraped out runs and had to work for everything now has a different approach. They play freely, have freedom to swing at the pitches they like, hit for extra bases and are pretty clean in the field.

They’re daring enough to say they “play cocky.”

“We’re a pretty good team, we’re pretty confident. You have to be cocky if you want to go out there and perform,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. “You don’t have to rely on one guy to get the big hit, one through nine can get it done so that’s always a good feeling when you know the whole lineup can do damage.”

They’re leading the league in slugging percentage and the pitching staff is seventh in MLB with a 3.80 earned run average. It’s a winning formula. The question is how long it will last.