CHICAGO -- The Twins' focus in recent weeks has been on maintaining their lead in the American League Central over the White Sox. And that will continue to be the case as the two clubs battle this week in their final three head-to-head matchups.But while the division title is on the line for the Twins, so too is another prospective achievement -- the best record in the American League. Following the Yankees' 8-7 victory over the Rays on Tuesday night, New York leads the league with 88 wins, followed by Tampa Bay (87) and Minnesota (86). It's a significant thing to note considering that the team with the best record in the AL would ensure home-field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs. "Our No. 1 goal is to take care of our division, that's first and foremost," Twins center fielder Denard Span said. "But once we do that, I think that it is important to try to shoot for [the best record], especially if it's in reach. Going into the playoffs, if we can have home-field advantage, I think that's going to give you exactly what it says, an advantage. I think we're a better team at home." The Twins' 48-23 record at home ranks first in the AL, just ahead of the Yankees' 49-25 mark. Despite changing home venues this year, the Twins have not lost their home advantage in the inaugural season at Target Field. And there is no question that they'd like to have more contests at home if at all possible during a postseason run. The Twins could get some help in nearing that top record in the AL since the Yankees and Rays still are set to face each other six more times before the end of the regular season. But if there is a tie atop the league for wins, the Twins would lose the tiebreaker since they lost the season series to both the Yankees (2-4) and the Rays (3-5). "We definitely don't play good against the AL East on the road, so if we can get home-field advantage, it could possibly be a series changer if we play more games at home," Span said. "We'll take getting to the playoffs any way we can, whether it's having home-field advantage or not, but if we can get that, I think it could help our chances."
Twins, White Sox maintain rivalry, respect
CHICAGO -- The headline in one of the Chicago papers on Tuesday read, "I hate the Twins", in reference to a quote from White Sox starter Mark Buehrle.But there was more to Buehrle's statement as his full quote said, "I hate the Twins because they are good and they win." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire actually really enjoyed the headline and said it is part of the reason why he loves the rivalry between his team and the White Sox. "That's great stuff," Gardenhire said before his club's 9-3 victory in the series opener. "It doesn't get any better than that. It's a great article and that's why it's fun. Buehrle, we've faced him 10 million times. And that's the way it's been, back and forth." Buehrle is set to pitch for the White Sox against Twins starter Carl Pavano in Thursday's series finale and Gardenhire joked that he looks forward to nights when the left-hander is on the mound due to his fast pace of games. There is a mutual respect between the clubs and Gardenhire said that the sentiments Buehrle expressed just reflected how the two teams feel about each other when they step on the field. "The players get after each once the game starts, we're knocking heads and that's the way it should be," Gardenhire said. "You get after each other, knock each other down and do whatever it takes to win. That's why it's always been such a fun series." While the Twins have had some important matchups with the Tigers down the stretch in recent years, Gardenhire said that the division rivalry with the White Sox is a little more intense based on things that have happened between the two teams in the past. He also credits White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for bringing some fun to the matchups. Of course it doesn't hurt that since Gardenhire took over as Twins manager in 2002, the Twins have won five AL Central titles and the White Sox have won two, with both clubs often squaring off with each other at the end. And that's why there is a respectful nature to the rivalry. "I think it's turned into respect because it seems like our two clubs are banging heads quite a bit here at the end," Gardenhire said. "Don't get me wrong, we want to kill them and they want to kill us. That's never going to change, because when we play each other as much as we do, that's the way it's supposed to be. You should have a good rivalry inside your division with teams that are always competing against each other for divisions and so forth, and we've done that quite a bit."
Time running out for Morneau
CHICAGO -- With 19 games left in the regular season entering Tuesday, time is decreasing for first baseman Justin Morneau if he is going to make a return to the ballclub.Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked before Tuesday's game about Morneau's progress in his recovery from the concussion he suffered on July 7 and there really was no news to report. "We've not really even touched on it," Gardenhire said. "We're just letting him try to get well." Gardenhire did say that Morneau has continued to work out at Target Field, but the manager is focused mostly on Morneau's health and not the chances of him returning to the field. "The baseball part of it is kind of in our back mirror right now," Gardenhire said. "We don't want to push him. We just want to see him get well. That's all we're thinking about."
The stiff neck that bothered Carl Pavano in his last outing against the Indians is no concern heading into his start against the White Sox on Thursday. "I was told he'll be fine," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I'm not worried about it at all." ... Delmon Young entered Tuesday's game with a career .349 average against the White Sox. It's the second highest among all active players vs. the White Sox, trailing only the Orioles' Nick Markakis (.369). Young then went 1-for-2 with a homer in the series opener. ... Sunday's win over the Indians was the 4,000th win for the Twins franchise since it moved from Washington to Minnesota in 1961.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.