Half the season still remains, so Minnesota must prove for three more months its place as a legitimate playoff contender. If the Twins can capture the successful spirit of these last two weeks, though, they'll be right there at the end.
Slowey breezed through his fourth straight dominant start, beating Ben Sheets and the Milwaukee Brewers with a three-hit shutout Sunday in a 5-0 victory by Minnesota that took only two hours and five minutes.
Delmon Young's two-run homer and Carlos Gomez's RBI triple highlighted an impressive rebound by the Twins against the previously surging Sheets (9-2), hours after their 10-game winning streak ended. They were held to just a pair of hits over seven innings against Milwaukee starter Manny Parra in a 5-1 loss Saturday night.
"You want to come back and prove to yourself we're just as good as we were two days ago," Slowey said.
The right-hander retired the first 10 batters he faced and struck out eight. The only trouble he had was a fourth-inning double by J.J. Hardy, who moved to third on a groundout by Ryan Braun. But Slowey (5-6) blew a fastball by Prince Fielder to end the threat, just as he did with nobody on for the second out of the seventh. He pumped his fist on the follow-through and returned to the mound to retire the last seven Brewers after a harmless single by Corey Hart.
"I'm still young and still learning stuff every outing," Slowey said, adding: "It's a culmination of a lot of at-bats and a lot of pitches and a lot of great plays behind you."
In his last four appearances, Slowey has pitched 29 innings and allowed only three runs with two walks -- none on Sunday -- while winning three times. Continuing to mesh well with catcher Joe Mauer, Slowey threw fastballs on roughly 75 percent of his 109 pitches and didn't leave any of them over the plate.
"He was just painting," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Minnesota's minor league pitcher of the year in 2007, Slowey ran his scoreless innings streak to 16. The bullpen never stirred.
"No mistakes. Well, he might have made a few, but when he made them we didn't get them," Hart said.
The Twins ended the first two innings by hitting into double plays. Second baseman Rickie Weeks nimbly ran to his right to snag a sharp line drive by Mauer in the first and double off Casilla, who was moving with the pitch.
Against an ace like Sheets, wasting early chances is not the way to win. But it didn't hurt them at all.
Kubel drove in Mauer after a two-out double in the fourth, and Brian Buscher started a rally in the fifth with a leadoff single. He eventually scored on Gomez's drive down the left-field line that Braun didn't play well when it bounced off the wall in the corner.
Then came the big blow by Young, who has only two homers this year, on a hanging curveball following a two-out walk to Kubel.
"Same one I rolled over on the double play," Young said.
Sheets lost for the first time in eight starts.
"All in all, he threw OK," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. "It never got out of hand. Like I said, he matched up against the wrong guy today."
Coming off a complete-game victory at Atlanta, Sheets gave up five or more runs for only the second time this season. He's solidly in the mix of early candidates for the NL Cy Young Award and could be named the starter for the All-Star game next month.
So he wasn't exactly used to this.
"I thought I had way better stuff than that," Sheets said. "I didn't get away with any at all."
The Twins haven't had to get away with much lately. They'll host improving Detroit for a three-game series Monday, the start of a difficult stretch that leads into the All-Star break.
Minnesota went 16-2 against the NL in 2006 on the way to the division title, but Gardenhire had no answers for his team's record against the other league. Especially at home.
"They're not really a National League team when they come here. They use a DH," he said. "So they're American League teams, and we just thumped 'em. How about that?"
The Twins placed RF Michael Cuddyer (strained tendon in left index finger) on the 15-day DL during the game and will recall Denard Span from Triple-A Rochester to take his place on Monday. ... Hart made a diving attempt to catch Casilla's two-out double in the seventh, but he lost control of it as he fell to the turf in right field and Mike Lamb scored from first. Lamb was the DH and in the starting lineup for the first time since June 13. ... The Brewers activated RH Eric Gagne from the 15-day DL after the game, but Yost declined to name his role in the bullpen.