MINNEAPOLIS -- After a 10-game road trip that saw the Twins go 4-6, manager Paul Molitor called a team meeting before Monday's game against the Orioles to remind his club not to look past their final homestand and to try to finish strong heading into the All-Star break.
Molitor's speech worked to perfection, as the Twins went 6-1 on the homestand, wrapping it up with a 7-1 win over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon at Target Field. Minnesota finished with three straight wins over Detroit, and now heads into the All-Star break with the second-best record in the American League at 49-40.
"It was a good week for us at home, winning six out of seven," Molitor said. "Everyone kept their focus, which isn't always easy leading up to the break."
The Twins are one of the biggest surprises in baseball, but Twins players have maintained throughout the season they believe they can compete this year. Right fielder Torii Hunter has been the most vocal, as he said before the season he thought the Twins could win the division, and now nobody is laughing at those comments.
"I tell you what, a lot of those critics can eat their words," Hunter said. "We went out and proved a lot of people wrong. It was just sheer will to go out there and grind every day and prove people wrong. We're a winning ballclub, and now we're starting to believe that and we're more consistent about it."
The 49 wins before the All-Star break are the most for the Twins since they won 53 before the break in 2008, and it's also the first time they've had a winning record entering the break since 2010, which is also the last time the club made the postseason.
Minnesota's decision to start Kyle Gibson twice this week with Trevor May heading to the bullpen also paid off, as Gibson went 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in those two outings, including Sunday's win, allowing just an unearned run over seven innings to lower his ERA to 2.85. It's the fourth-lowest ERA by a Twins starter at the All-Star break dating back to 1992, but Gibson said he's happier with the way the team is playing.
"I think this was big for us," Gibson said. "We came out playing really well against Baltimore and took care of business against the Tigers. So I think it says a lot about our team. We focus on the day we're in and I think it goes to our leadership, which will help us going forward."
Gibson noted that even as the Twins celebrated their win with high-fives on the field after the game, Molitor told his players that there's still a lot of baseball to be played.
"We always caution ourselves that the work has just begun, in terms of some things we'd like to accomplish over the long season collectively," Molitor said. "But I think the cohesiveness of the club has been a big plus for us, and we've responded to all the challenges and adversities we've had to face."