After surviving a tumultuous June schedule that consisted of two long road trips and 19 of a total 27 games on the road, the Twins have finally returned to their comfort zone in Minneapolis. For the next 10 days, the Twins will remain indoors and continue the countdown of games until outdoor baseball in Minnesota.
Two games above .500 for the first time this season, the Twins will kick off a series with the Detroit Tigers in the first game of a three game series, nine game homestand.
The homestand may be one of the biggest for the Twins this season as they face their toughest rivals for the division title, Detroit and Chicago. As the Tigers sit atop the American League Central by three games, the Twins have an opportunity to gain ground and momentum to kick off the final stretch before the break.
With a sweep, the Twins could draw even with Detroit and with two victories they could gain one game in the hunt for October. One lone victory will cost the Twins a game in the race, and a sweep would be devastating; doubling the team's deficit and pushing them six games back.
The Tigers enter as a decent road team (20-24) having played two fewer games than Minnesota this season. They have put up the same record (6-4) as the Twins in the past 10 games, and are coming off a loss in Oakland.
The Twins will see no Justin Verlander, but following a Major League debut by rookie Lucas French, they'll face the suddenly great Edwin Jackson (6-4, 2.49) and Rick Porcello (8-5, 3.90).
For the Twins, Kevin Slowey (10-3, 4.41) will look to take over the league lead in victories. Slowey also has one last shot to prove his worthiness of being an All-Star selection.
Coming off a strong start in St. Louis that saved his spot in the rotation, Francisco Liriano (4-8, 5.62) will counter Jackson on Saturday. In the series finale on Sunday afternoon, the Twins will send out their surprisingly best starter, Nick Blackburn (6-4, 3.10).
A game one victory will be key for the Twins, and it'll heighten their chances of gaining ground before weekend's end.
After the Twins host the Tigers, they'll take on a team they've often struggled to solve, the Yankees. This season the Yankees have had many ups and downs, but entering the weekend, the Bronx Bombers are 45-33 and second in a strong American League East. The Twins will send Scott Baker and Glen Perkins to the hill, and while the third starter remains unknown, the likely candidate is Kevin Slowey.
The only certainty for the Yankees presence on the mound is the former Twin nemesis, C.C. Sabathia.
With three games before the break, the Twins will host the suddenly sharp White Sox. In the last 10 games, the White Sox have gone an impressive 8-2. Combined with timely losses by the Tigers, the White Sox have moved into second place and sit 2.5 games back in the Central.
The rotation remains largely uncertain for the final series before the break, but assuming the Twins remain on schedule with one off-day during the homestand, they'll send out Liriano, Blackburn, and Baker.
Loses to Detroit could push the Twins back further in the division, and a tough series with Chicago could do much of the same. It's far to early to call any series a must win, but the Twins cannot afford to lose ground or momentum before they take a break for the midsummer classic.