It was business as usual for the Twins in what just might have been Ron Gardenhire's best managerial effort. They sat 4½ games out of first, in third place, and just three games over .500 at the start of the second half, only to put on their patented closing kick and claim the sixth AL Central title in nine years. Minnesota closed with a 48-26 second-half showing, including a 10-3 record against the second-place White Sox and a three-game sweep in Chicago from Sept. 14-16 to lock down the division crown. The Twins survived major injuries to key players, with closer Joe Nathan lost for the season due to Tommy John Surgery, and Most Valuable Player candidate Justin Morneau basically missing the season's final three months because of after-effects coming from a concussion. But Jon Rauch and then non-waiver trade deadline pickup Matt Capps capably picked up the slack at the closer's spot with 37 combined saves, while the addition of free agent slugger Jim Thome helped lessen the impact of Morneau's absence. Thome cranked 25 home runs in just 340 plate appearances, including a walk-off blast against White Sox All-Star Matt Thornton on Aug. 17 at Target Field.
Thome certainly did not emerge as the Twins' only bright spot. Francisco Liriano asserted himself back at the top of the Minnesota rotation with a 14-10 record and 3.62 ERA, earning the AL's Comeback Player of the Year award. Carl Pavano provided a perfect lefty-righty one-two punch among Minnesota starters with a 17-11 record and 3.75 ERA. Rookie Danny Valencia took control at third base with a .311 average, seven home runs and 40 RBIs, while Delmon Young became an offensive force through his .298 average, 21 home runs, 46 doubles and 112 RBIs. Joe Mauer's numbers weren't quite as good as his 2009 MVP performance, but his .327 average, nine home runs, 43 doubles and 75 RBIs would be considered sensational by mere mortal standards. Unfortunately for the Twins, their season ended as it did in 2009 in the Division Series round of the AL playoffs. Whereas the Twins seemingly have the White Sox number with the AL Central on the line, the Yankees showed the same control of the Twins in the postseason during another three-game sweep.
After making the postseason the previous two seasons, the Twins struggled in 2011, losing 99 games to finish with the worst record in the American League. Injuries played a large role in the dip, as key players such as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span missed large chunks of time due to various ailments and injuries. But Jim Thome provided a major highlight by joining the 600 home run club with a two-homer game against the Tigers on Aug. 15.
The Twins finished with the worst record in the American League for a second consecutive season in '12. The rotation was the main culprit, as Minnesota starters combined for the second-worst ERA in the Majors. The club had one All-Star, as Joe Mauer returned to form after battling injuries in '11. Josh Willingham also had a monster first year with the Twins, hitting 35 homers to win his first Silver Slugger Award. After the season, Terry Ryan shed the interim label from his title as general manager.
The Twins entered the 2014 season hoping to have a bolstered rotation after the signings of Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey in the offseason, but it wasn't to be as Twins starters finished with the worst ERA in the Majors en route to a 92-loss season. Nolasco struggled and Pelfrey made just five starts before undergoing season-ending surgery, but Hughes did emerge as one of the best starters in the American League and set the record for the best single-season strikeout-to-walk ratio by a starter in Major League history. So there were bright spots, especially from young players such as Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, who were two of the top rookies in the AL. The Twins also hosted the All-Star Game at Target Field with homegrown closer Glen Perkins getting the save with his teammate Kurt Suzuki behind the plate. The offense also got going after the All-Star break, and the Twins finished seventh in the Majors in runs scored to give them optimism heading into 2015. But after a fourth straight season with at least 90 losses, the Twins made a managerial change, hiring Hall of Famer Paul Molitor to replace long-time manager Ron Gardenhire. The Twins had a busy offseason after hiring Molitor, as they also added veterans Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana via free agency.
Twins to a surprising season, as they remained in postseason contention until the final weekend of the season, finishing 83-79 to mark their first winning season since 2010. But it didn't start off well, as right-hander Ervin Santana, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, was suspended 80 games for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The suspension was announced three days before the start of the season, forcing the Twins to reshuffle their rotation, reinserting Mike Pelfrey. Minnesota got off to a 1-6 start, but was able to shake it off with an impressive May that saw the Twins go 20-7, their best record in a month since 1991. The return of veteran outfielder Torii Hunter proved to be vital to the club's success, as he not only had 22 homers and 81 RBIs, but served as the clubhouse leader and created "dance parties" in the clubhouse after home victories. Second baseman Brian Dozier also emerged as a legitimate power bat, hitting 28 homers in 157 games. He also made his first career All-Star Game appearance and homered in the American League's victory. Closer Glen Perkins was also an All-Star for the third straight year, but couldn't stay healthy in the second half. But reliever Kevin Jepsen was acquired from the Rays at the Trade Deadline and had a strong second half as Minnesota's closer. The 2015 season will also be remembered for the debuts of highly touted Twins rookies such as Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler. Sano made an instant impact as the designated hitter after being called up on July 2, hitting 18 homers in 52 games to finish third in the balloting for AL Rookie of the Year. Rosario was also a Rookie of the Year candidate, reaching double digits in homers, doubles, triples, stolen bases and outfield assists. Buxton, MLB.com's former No. 1 overall prospect, struggled in his first taste of the Majors, but retained his rookie status, while Kepler only appeared in the final games of the year as a September callup. Behind the sturdiness of Kyle Gibson and Santana along with the emergence of rookie Tyler Duffey down the stretch, the Twins remained in the Wild Card hunt until being eliminated on the second-to-last day of the year. Molitor finished third in the voting for AL Manager of the Year.
The Twins had high hopes after their surprising 2015 season, but Minnesota started out the year by losing its first nine games and could never recover. The disappointing season led to long-time general manager Terry Ryan getting dismissed shortly after the All-Star break in July. After playing winning baseball in July, Minnesota struggled down the stretch, finishing 59-103, which was both the worst mark in the Majors and the worst record in Twins history. Pitching was the biggest culprit, as the club finished with the worst ERA in baseball. But there were bright spots, especially second baseman Brian Dozier, had 42 homers, 35 doubles, 99 RBIs and 104 runs scored. He hit 28 of his homers after the All-Star break after a slow start, and broke the American League record for homers by a second baseman. Dozier, though, wasn't an All-Star because of his slow start, as infielder Eduardo Nunez had a breakout first half, playing both shortstop and third base because of injuries to Eduardo Escobar and Trevor Plouffe. Nunez was later traded to the Giants for pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia at the Trade Deadline. The Twins also sent right-hander Ricky Nolasco and prospect Alex Meyer to the Angels for lefty Hector Santiago at the Trade Deadline. Right-hander Ervin Santana was far and away Minnesota's best starter, posting a 3.38 ERA in 30 outings. Closer Glen Perkins made two appearances before undergoing season-ending labrum surgery, while reliever Kevin Jepsen struggled and was ultimately released. Brandon Kintzler filled in admirably as closer in the second half. The Twins had several Rookie of the Year candidates entering the year including Byron Buxton, Byung Ho Park, Jose Berrios and Max Kepler, but none earned any votes. Kepler had a strong rookie year, however, while the power-hitting Park had a tough time transitioning from Korea and Berrios struggled in his first taste of the Majors. Buxton had a tough time offensively early in the year before breaking out after being called up again in September, hitting nine homers over his final 29 games. Despite Minnesota's struggles, ownership announced during the season that Paul Molitor would be retained as manager in 2017. With the help of the search firm, Korn Ferry, the Twins conducted a search for the new head of baseball operations and ultimately hired Derek Falvey as the club's chief baseball officer. Falvey, who was an assistant general manager for the Indians, wasn't officially introduced until after the World Series because of Cleveland's run to the Fall Classic. Falvey hired former Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine as his general manager. Both were officially introduced on Nov. 7.
The Twins were perhaps the biggest surprise in baseball in 2017, becoming the first team to make the postseason after losing more than 100 games in the previous year. The Twins went 85-77 en route to being the second AL Wild Card team. They lost the Wild Card Game to the Yankees in New York, but it was still a successful season given the expectations coming into the year. The Twins relied on their young core and key veterans such as Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Ervin Santana and Matt Belisle. Byron Buxton had his breakout season, winning both the Gold Glove in center field and the Platinum Glove as the best defensive player in baseball. The pitching staff, led by Santana, was improved, as Jose Berrios was electric in his second season and Kyle Gibson had a strong second half. The defense was a strong point with Dozier also winning his first Gold Glove. The Twins were sellers at the Trade Deadline, dealing away closer Brandon Kintzler and veteran Jaime Garcia, but won 20 games in August to take control of the Wild Card race. Manager Paul Molitor more than ably steered the ship for the Twins, and for his efforts, he was named the AL Manager of the Year and signed a three-year extension after the season.