But just what would it take for the Twins to surge back to the top of the division here in the second half? Anyone would have to admit that it's still possible, if extremely improbable. We've seen this team make up some significant deficits after the break in years past under Ron Gardenhire.
Below, I've listed out a few things that, in my mind, would have to happen for the Twins to pull off their greatest turnaround yet. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section. (And, please, no "It's not going to happen" responses. The unlikelihood is obvious.)
1) Come out of the break on fire.
The trade deadline is only two weeks away, and with a double-digit deficit in the standings, the front office will have no choice but to sell. Without the likes of Francisco Liriano and others, they team will be dead in the water. If, however, the Twins can rattle off a bunch of wins in short order – including dominating key series against the White Sox and Indians – Terry Ryan may be compelled to keep the gang together and see what they can do.
2) Dominate the division.
I hinted at this above, but the Twins would really need to lay the hammer down on divisional opponents. They're 11 games behind and trailing four different clubs, so with 77 games remaining there is little margin for error. They probably can't afford to lose a single series against Chicago, Detroit or Cleveland.
3) The White Sox must fall.
Quietly, the Sox have turned into one of baseball's finest teams. Their 47-38 record ranks as sixth best in the majors, and they've been on a tear lately winning 11 of their last 15. If Chicago wins 90-some games, the Twins won't be catching them. Similarly, the Twins need the Tigers and Indians to remain lukewarm in the final months.
4) Starting pitching must lead the way.
Shockingly, the Twins got three good starts against an offensive powerhouse in Texas heading into the break. Yet, their starters still own the worst ERA in the American League. Minnesota will need to win at a .650+ clip from here on out to have a chance; they simply won't be doing that without vastly improved starting pitching.
5) The bullpen can't slip up.
It seems we might already be seeing some signs of the bullpen's heavy workload over the first half catching up. Given the aforementioned slim margin for error, the Twins can't really afford to let late leads slip away like they did in Texas over the weekend.