Today opens with the Twins 6 games behind 1st place Detroit and Cleveland 12 games behind first place Detroit. In other words, the Twins are as close to 4th place as 1st. Based on the quality of play lately, it's clear which direction they are headed. This afternoon, the Twins are not playing to "get back in the pennant race" in the AL Central. Instead, they are playing to protect their headstart in the race to stay out of 4th place. A strong finish would be nice, but honestly at this point, I wonder if an embarrassing 4th or 5th place finish may be best. If they limp to a third place finish, the marketing department can try to blame luck and injuries, but if things completely crumble they will know that the current personnel will be a tougher sell in Target Field.
The downside to the impending meaningless September baseball is that Nick Punto seems to perform at his best once thoughts in Minnesota have turned purple. He'll catch fire against the recalled AAA pitching and bring his average back to respectability. "Respectability" may seem insurmountable, but I figure he has about 160 at-bats left. If he hits .300 over that stretch, it brings him up to .240 or so for the season. Remember, he hit .286 in September of 2007 to salvage a .210 average. With Gardy at the helm, we know he'll get at-bats.