Detroit has dominated the division in recent memory, taking the crown each of the past four seasons. The last time they failed to win it was when they finished with an 81-81 record in 2010; 13 games behind Minnesota who got swept in the ALDS by the Yankees that season. But fans in the Twin Cities may actually forget that they were the last non-Tiger team to win the AL Central because of how the last few seasons have played out.
The Twins haven’t come close to the playoffs since that season, losing 90 or more games each season and finishing in last place all but one of them. However, every team in the division is currently on equal footing; the records are the same, last year is in the past, and Phil Hughes is looking to pick up where he left off against Detroit.
Hughes, making the first Opening Day start of his career this afternoon for the Twins, dominated the Tigers in his two starts against them in 2014 and fans would love to see him continue that trend and get Minnesota off to a strong start.
The Twins ace by default went 2-0 against the Tigers last year, who finished second league-wide in runs scored and first in batting average, with a strong 0.64 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. This success against one of the best offenses in baseball came during a strong bounce back year for the veteran right-hander as he improved his win total from four to 16 and dropped his ERA from 5.19 to 3.52. Hughes walked the same amount of batters as games he won, 16, and posted the best single season strikeout-to-walk ratio in Major League history.
A strong pitching outing from Hughes may not be enough as former Cy Young award-winner David Price is taking the ball for the other team. Minnesota did feature a top ten offense in 2014 but Price has had a lot of success against the Twins during his career. Price was 3-1 against the Twins last year in four starts and posted a 2.40 ERA while holding opponents to a scary .198 batting average.
The Twins lineup looks similar to last year’s but features a new cleanup hitter that Tiger fans may recognize; Torii Hunter. Hunter, who rose to stardom with the Twins in the early 2000’s returns to the Twin Cities after seven years away from the club, the last two of those as a Detroit Tiger. He hit .295 in his two seasons in Detroit and was an All-Star in 2013. He is a career .296 hitter at Comerica Park.