Opposite dugout: Despite curious stats, Twins atop AL Central

Manager: Paul Molitor (3rd season)
TwinsLogo.jpg

Record: 22-18

Last 10 games: 6-4

Who to watch: 3B Miguel Sanó (.304 with 10 HR, 34 RBIs); 1B Joe Mauer (.262 with 18 runs, 34 RBIs); RF Max Kepler (.260 with 4 HR, 16 RBIs); RHP Ervin Santana (6-2, 2.07 ERA); RHP Brandon Kintzler (2-0, 1.89 ERA with 11 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: First meeting (1-5 in 2016)

Pitching probables:

May 22: RHP Kyle Gibson vs. RHP Ubaldo Jiménez, 7:05 p.m., MASN
May 23: RHP Ervin Santana vs. RHP Dylan Bundy, 7:05 p.m., MASN2
May 24: RHP José Berríos vs. RHP Chris Tillman, 12:35 p.m., MASN

Inside the Twins:

Glance across the current playoff landscape and it doesn't take long to notice some surprise entrants. The Brewers have surged out of the gates to take a modest lead in the National League Central, as have the Rockies in the NL West. In the American League, however, look no further than the Twins, who at 22-18, find themselves tied for first place in the Central Division. Of course, just 5 1/2 games separate them and the last-place Royals, but fans up north have to be pleased with what's transpired through the first two months. Oddly enough, Minnesota is just 11-13 at home this season, but boasts an 11-5 mark on the road. That'll make for a thrilling clash in Baltimore, where the Orioles sport a 15-4 record at Camden Yards.

Despite their first-place status, the Twins head into Charm City with a minus-6 run differential and a streaky offense. Third baseman Miguel Sanó leads the charge and, well, nearly every statistical category for the Twins. He's first on the team in batting average (.304), home runs (10), RBIs (34), on-base percentage (.430), hits (41) and probably just about any other category that comes to mind. He gets assistance from former AL MVP Joe Mauer, who at 34 is still consistently producing at the plate with a .262 average, and right-fielder Max Kepler, who tallied hits in all three of the Twins' games against Kansas City over the weekend to boost his average to .260 on the year.

Kyle Gibson starts tonight's series opener hoping to erase a forgettable start to the season. The right-hander is still searching for his first win - and quality start - and will try and lower his 8.20 ERA opposite right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez. Ervin Santana's ERA certainly doesn't need to drop much lower, as the 34-year-old right-hander is off to a tremendous start. He's boasting a 6-2 record to complement his 2.07 ERA and is no stranger to facing the Orioles, having made 15 career starts against the Birds. Santana will start Tuesday's game against Orioles ace Dylan Bundy. Along with seeing their team in first place in late May, arguably the biggest surprise for Twins fans has to be the results of starter José Berríos. After posting an ERA north of 8.00 in 14 starts in 2016, Berríos seems to have set his ship on the right course. He's allowed just one earned run in 15 1/3 innings pitched this season and will get the start for the Twins in Wednesday's matinee finale, just three days before his 23rd birthday.

In the bullpen, the Twins are led by closer Brandon Kintzler, who is tied for third in the AL with 11 saves. That's not to say the unit is invincible, however. The Twins bullpen ranks 22nd in the major leagues with a 4.42 ERA and has seen mixed results from right-handers Matt Belisle and Ryan Pressly, along with lefties Craig Breslow and Taylor Rogers.

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