The Minnesota Twins entered the 2013 season with very low expectations. Many picked the Twins to finish well buried in last place in the division and near the bottom of the league.
However, the team has won six of 10, dating back to just before the All-Star break, and is now within five games of third place in the division.
Here are the players helping the team climb toward the .500 mark and the players keeping them from getting too close.
The 29-year-old starting pitcher has been the best starter in the Twins rotation over the last month. Despite a 1-2 record over the last month, he has posted a 2.28 ERA. He has given up just six runs on 20 hits and seven walks over 23.2 innings while striking out 17. Opponents are hitting .235 off him over that span. He got off to a slow start while coming back from Tommy John Surgery, but has slowly lowered his ERA to 4.18 on the season. He has lowered his in each of his last eight starts.
The 33-year-old shortstop is leading the all Twins healthy position players in hitting over the last 30 days with a .333 average. However, that average has come in just nine at-bats over four games. But, the journeyman has turned two of those three hits into doubles and collected two RBIs. He has also proven capable of playing either middle infield spot.
The 26-year-old shortstop has improved his batting average over the last month, but has become a star with the glove. He makes multiple outstanding defensive plays per game. His batting average is still not good at .233 in July, but it is a far better number the .173 he posted in June.
The 23-year-old center fielder also does not have an outstanding batting average, but it is getting better. He still has too high of a strikeout total at 22, but the .246 batting average is well above his season average (.197). He also improved his base stealing by swiping four bases in five tries in July. In July, he has also posted his highest on-base percentage and second best slugging percentage in a month this season.
The 27-year-old third baseman is not posting the lowest batting average on the team over the past month, but he has struggled to make contact. He has a team-high 27 strikeouts over the last 30 days, including 10 over the last six games. He went through a stretch from July 20-22 that he struck out in seven straight at-bats.
The 32-year-old starting pitcher has been the worst starter on the Twins staff over the last month. He has a 1-2 record with a 7.50 ERA. He allowed 20 runs on 32 and 13 walks over 24 innings while striking out 15. Opponents are hitting .330 off him over that span. He was considered a sneaky candidate to be traded at the deadline, but now looks more to be designated for assignment than traded.
The 29-year-old swung the bat well in a small stretch, but it overall hasn’t been very good. Making contact has been an issue throughout his tenure with the Twins, but he had the second most strikeouts on the team with 25 over the last month. Among the regulars, only Chris Colabello has a worse batting average over the last 30 days than Thomas.
The 26-year-old starting pitcher has been consistently the worst starter in the rotation all season. Over the last month nothing has changed. He has an 0-3 record with a 6.29 ERA. He has allowed 17 earned runs (19 total runs) on 31 hits and 11 walks over 24.1 innings while striking out 11. Opponents are hitting .301 off him over that span. His season ERA has progressively gotten worse with each month this season.
The 30-year-old relief pitcher has been subject of trade rumors, but the left-hander has struggled to get out left-handed hitters. He has posted a 5.59 ERA over 9.2 innings over the last month. Opponents are hitting .325 off him and he has allowed over two base runners per inning pitched. For the season, left-handers are hitting .300 off him.