This season was set up to be a potentially great one for the Minnesota Twins. They moved out of the dingy Metrodome and into the great outdoors of Target Field. The opening of a new stadium also enabled the once-thrifty Twins to begin the season with a club-record $97 million payroll.
After some bumps in the road, it is again starting to look like it will be the Twins' year. Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report gives the Twins a 54.1 percent chance of making the playoffs for the sixth time in the past nine seasons; two weeks ago, through games of July 18, the Twins' chances were just 33.0 percent. The 21.1 percent increase is the largest in the major leagues during that span.
An emerging star and an established superstar helped spark the Twins to a 10-3 record in that time. Outfielder Delmon Young hit .481/.491/.796 (BA/OBP/SLG) in 57 plate appearances, and catcher Joe Mauer had a .425/.467/.750 line in 45 plate appearances. The starting pitching was also strong as Francisco Liriano won all three starts and did not allow a run in 21 innings while Carl Pavano won both starts and gave up one run in 14 innings, good for a 0.64 ERA. Kevin Slowey went 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA.
The Twins also averaged 6.3 runs per game and gave up 1.8, both the best in the major leagues in that time period.
No one else had a jump close to that of the Twins, but the St. Louis Cardinals increased their playoff chances by 8.5 percent in the past two weeks, and are up to 68.9 percent overall. They're currently a half-game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central standings.
Rookie outfielder Jon Jay led the Cardinals' 8-5 charge by hitting .425/.489/.600 in 48 plate appearances, and closer Ryan Franklin went 2-0 with two saves in four relief appearances, pitching 5
Meanwhile, Jayson Werth snapped out of his long funk and took himself off the trading block by hitting .432/.527/.705 in 55 trips to the plate for the Philadelphia Phillies (8.2 percent playoff odd increase), who went 9-4 and now have a 31.9 percent chance of reaching the postseason. Roy Halladay allowed only one run in 17 innings for a 0.53 ERA while winning both starts.
Plus, Wade Davis and James Shields each went 3-0 in three starts for the Tampa Bay Rays, who were 10-3, with Davis posting a 2.11 ERA and Shields notching a 2.66 mark. David Price won both his starts with a 3.38 ERA, Rafael Soriano had seven saves, and outfielder Matt Joyce hit four home runs. The Rays increased their playoff odds by 7.3 percent, helped by winning this weekend's series against the New York Yankees. There is now an 83.6 percent chance that the Rays will reach October.
And now, unfortunately, for the bad.
The Detroit Tigers saw a net loss of 18.5 percent in their playoff chances, worst of the past two weeks among all MLB squads. A 4-9 stretch—along with injuries to second baseman Carlos Guillen, third baseman Brandon Inge, and right fielder Magglio Ordonez—has just about scuttled the Tigers' postseason plans. Rick Porcello's return from Triple-A Toledo did not provide a spark as he lost his two starts and had a 4.73 ERA. Outfielder Brennan Boesch's Rookie of the Year candidacy took a hit as he batted .091/.196/.091 in 51 plate appearances. There is now just a 2.6 percent chance that Detroit will make the postseason.
Another rookie also struggled: First baseman Ike Davis had a .156/.224/.333 line with 16 strikeouts in 49 plate appearances as the New York Mets went 4-8. Pedro Feliciano lost two games in relief. The pride of Queens saw its playoff odds drop 13.7 percent, and the Mets now have just a 4.5 percent chance of getting to the playoffs. The Mets open a crucial series with the Atlanta Braves this evening.
Elsewhere, newly-acquired Dan Haren lost his first two starts after coming over from the Diamondbacks in a trade and second baseman Howie Kendrick hit .179/.200.282 in 49 trips to the plate as the Los Angeles Angels went 4-9; it increasingly seems that the Texas Rangers will pull away with the AL West, as the Angels' playoff odds dropped 11.7 percent, all the way down to 2.7.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .