Throughout the history of sports the most important regular season games have always been against divisional foes. In the 90’s, the Chicago White Sox often found themselves battling for the top spot in the American League Central with the Cleveland Indians. The Minnesota Twins, on the other hand, spent most of their time trying to stay out of the cellar, with the exception of their 1991 World Series Championship.
The White Sox won the very first AL Central crown of the new millennium, and the Twins ushered in the 2000’s with yet another last place finish, but that all changed in 2002 when the Twins hired Ron Gardenhire.
In Gardenhire’s first season as Twins manager, the “Twinkies” won the AL Central before losing in the ALCS, and the Twins and Sox have tussled for the top spot in the Central ever since. The head-to-head matchups between the Sox and Twins were often heated, and in Gardenhire’s first seven seasons the White Sox and Twins had nearly split their 130 contests (Twins 77 and White Sox 73.)
The feud came to a head on September 30, 2008, when the two teams met in a one-game playoff to decide the AL Central. The White Sox won the game and thus the division, but unfortunately for the Sox, that would essentially be the end of their successes against the Twins.
In the 44 games the two teams have locked horns in over the last three seasons; the Twins have won an astonishing 32 contests and won the division in both 2009 and 2010.
Last weekend, in the final series before the All-Star break, the Twins continued asserting their dominance over the White Sox despite a less than stellar first half. After taking three of four from the Sox, the Twins have now snuck to 6.5 games back of the first-place Cleveland Indians, their closest deficit since April 27th.
The White Sox, on the other hand, are only five games out of first; however, they have struggled against AL Central foes, and with 47 of their 70 remaining games coming against divisional opponents, that could spell bad news for the White Sox.
With the Twins recent resurgence, the AL Central is shaping up to be a four-team race to the finish, which means the 10 remaining games between the Sox and Twins will be as meaningful as ever. Let’s just hope the White Sox can reverse the recent trend of Twins dominance. Otherwise it could be a long year.