Road wins key so far for surprising Twins, Brewers
The Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers are both in first place, meaning the season has been a surprising success so far.
If only their home fans had been able to enjoy it a little more often.
The Twins and Brewers are in this position because of their performance on the road. Minnesota is 14-5 away from home, and Milwaukee is 13-8. Both are below .500 at home.
They played at home Sunday, with the Brewers beating Arizona and the Twins losing to Tampa Bay . Although they haven't always put on a great show in front of their season-ticket holders, Milwaukee and Minnesota are leading the divisions that include last year's World Series participants.
The Chicago Cubs figured to be formidable in the NL Central, obviously, but they trail the Brewers (27-23) by 1 + games. The Cleveland Indians were a clear favorite in the AL Central, but they're two games behind the Twins (26-20).
Those are small leads, and the outlook could be a lot different for Minnesota and Milwaukee in a month or so, but after losing a combined 192 games in 2016, any signs of progress were welcome.
The Twins' ERA is down from an American League-worst 5.08 last year to 4.14. They're first in the league in defensive efficiency ratio, a stat that measures the number of outs a team records in its defensive opportunities, and young right-hander Jose Berrios looks capable of giving Minnesota's rotation another boost.
For Milwaukee, the unexpected slugging of Eric Thames has been well documented, but Travis Shaw has also made a real contribution with a .290 average and nine home runs.
Next up for the Brewers is a series in New York against the struggling Mets. The Twins, on the other hand, host a Houston team with the best record in the major leagues.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
The Boston Red Sox are starting to look more like the team many expected. Although their six-game winning streak was snapped Sunday, they trail the New York Yankees by only three games atop the AL East.
Five Boston pitchers combined for 20 strikeouts against Texas on Thursday, with closer Craig Kimbrel fanning four in the ninth. Kimbrel has struck out 40 and walked two this year.
And now the Red Sox get David Price back from an elbow injury Monday in Chicago against the White Sox.
The Atlanta Braves turned heads when they acquired two pitchers in their 40s - Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey - early in the offseason. The moves haven't worked out well so far. Colon is 2-5 with a 6.96 ERA, and opponents are hitting .321 off him. Dickey is 3-4 with a 4.65 ERA and leads the team in walks.
The two have combined to allow 20 homers.
Billy Hamilton belongs on any list of the game's most exciting players, and he scored from first on a single to lift Cincinnati to a 4-3 win at Cleveland on Wednesday. Hamilton was running on the pitch, and it took left fielder Michael Brantley a moment to locate the ball after he was unable to make a diving catch. Hamilton kept running and scored without a throw.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Ervin Santana, Twins, pitched a two-hit shutout in Minnesota's 2-0 win over Baltimore on Tuesday night. Santana retired the final 14 batters on 42 pitches.
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