For the second time in as many years, 162 games aren't enough to determine the best team in the AL Central. If that isn't a testament to how evenly-matched the majority of the division is, I don't what would be.
Game 163 will be played at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon on TBS. (Some of our clever readers have coined TBS as the "Tie-Breaker Station," or "Tigers Bawl Softly"on the Facebook group. Be sure to join the group and jump in on the conversation!)
Rick Porcello will take the mound for the opposition. Although just 20 years of age, Porcello is a top candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year award. He'll likely receive several first-place votes simply because of his 14-9 record. Many may think that a 20-year old thrust into a pennant race isn't ideal, but 27-year old Scott Baker is no savvy veteran, either.
As their difference in age attests to, however, Porcello and Baker are almost completely different pitchers. Both throw a large percentage of fastballs, but Porcello will induce many groundballs thanks to his sinking fastball, while Baker leaves many of his fastballs up in the zone. Look for Detroit to play as many athletic infielders as possible, while Minnesota will almost assuredly have the fleet-footed Carlos Gomez roaming center field.
Porcello pitches to contact more than his opponent, which gives a higher strikeout rate for Baker. Because he allows fewer groundballs than other Twins' starters, Minnesota may be able to slide the offensively capable (relatively speaking) Brendan Harris into the infield without a noticeable drop in defensive performance.
The venue may prove to be the difference in this game, as the Metrodome is notorious for being an extremely hostile environment. Over 50,000 fans waving Homer Hankies and screaming at the top of their lungs in a closed building will irk even veteran pitchers. Porcello, who claims a 6.50 ERA and has surrendered a triple-slash line of .349/.391/.558 in just ten innings at the Metrodome, could falter.
If he does, though, don't expect the Twins to walk away with an easy win. Remember, this is an elimination game, and everything possible will be done to win. If that means yanking Porcello in the second inning because he has loaded the bases, Jim Leyland will do just that. Don't be at all shocked to see seven or more pitchers used by each team in Tuesday's contest.
As someone once said, "If a team needs to win, they're probably not that good in the first place." While that may be true, there will be two not-so-good teams going head-to-head on Tuesday night. The winner will get to play more baseball; the loser will not.
For now, though, the rest of the baseball world will turn their collective attention to the Metrodome on Tuesday night as they await the final member of the "Playoff Class of '09." Eight teams play postseason baseball in October, and while it would be foolish to consider them as the eight best in all of baseball, it is an honor to advance where 22 other teams aren't allowed.
Whichever teams pulls out the victory on Tuesday will be thrust into a five-game series with the New York Yankees. Although neither the Twins or Tigers would be considered favorites, anything can happen in October baseball, as has been evidenced by an incredible 16-4 run by the Twins.
Here's hoping Tuesday's game in the Metrodome won't be the last.no comments
Let the cliches roll in. "It all comes down to this." "Do or die from here on out." "This one's for all the marbles."
Whichever over-used phrase you prefer, the fact that there is extra baseball to look forward to doesn't change. Repeat after me: The Twins are not finished yet. Win one and we're in. Successfully record 27 outs Tuesday while crossing home plate at least one more time than the Tigers, and we'll march right into the playoffs.
Of course, Minnesota has some distinct advantages. One, they're incredibly hot, having won 15 of their last 19 games. Two, we have the benefit of a fully-rested ace in Scott Baker, while the Tiger's Justin Verlander pitched earlier today against the White Sox. Three, Dome-field advantage!
Baker's mound opponent will be 20-year old Rick Porcello, who has put together an impressive 14-9 record and a 4.04 ERA.
Tuesday's game shouldn't be a high-scoring affair. At the first sign of trouble either team will yank their starter in favor of a fully-rested bullpen arm. We may even see some guys from the rotation on the mound if things get dire. Sure, that isn't the best long-term plan, considering the winner of Tuesday's game will be launched into a five-game series against the Yankees the next day, but what's the point of saving a pitcher for the next game if there is no next game?
So, once again, the fate of the entire season rests in Tuesday's game. We're in do-or-die territory. This one's for all the marbles.
Here's hoping the Twins don't disappoint. Stay tuned here at Twins Target for some Game 163 preview later on.no comments
After 161 games, the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins are tied atop the AL Central.
Who would'a thunk?
Thanks to a hot streak from Delmon Young, and an abysmal week from the Tigers, Minnesota now has the ability to clinch a "playoff" spot without having to worry about the "out of town" scoreboard.
With a victory tomorrow, the Twins will have clinched, at the very least, the right to a Game 163, to be held in the Metrodome on Tuesday night. If the Tigers lose tomorrow as well, Minnesota will have won the AL Central out-right.
If the Twins manage to accomplish that, they will be among the most historic teams in baseball.
And the real beauty? We can concentrate solely and completely on the Metrodome turf. It's in our own hands from here on out.
(Image courtesy of the AP)no comments
In a sport where just 27 percent of teams play reach the postseason, is there anything more a baseball fan can realistically ask for other than meaningful games in October?
I think not.
The Twins weren't in an elimination game on Friday night against Kansas City, but every win postpones Detroit's ability to clinch the division. We're not at the point of "win and you're in" yet, as we still need the White Sox to win at least one more game, but the Twins are awfully close.
Minnesota's magic number is 4, while the division-leading Tigers' is just 2. Two games remain.
If Chicago can win two more games against the Tigers, and the Twins sweep the remaining games against Kansas City, the division would go to Minnesota outright.
If Detroit loses one of two and the Twins win out, or if Detroit is swept and the Twins win one of the remaining two, a one-game play-in will be held on Tuesday night at the Metrodome for all the marbles.
A few weeks ago, a playoff run looked extremely unlikely. After failing to win the crucial series in Detroit earlier this week, things looked even bleaker. The odds of the Twins catching up to the Tigers aren't favorable, but after days like yesterday, we're reminded that "it's not over yet, folks."no comments
Let me be clear: the Twins aren't quite finished yet. Detroit's magic number is two games, and there are four games left on the regular season schedule. With the right combination of solid play and good luck, they could still win this thing. Possible? Yes. Likely? No.
On August 7th Minnesota was 5.5 games behind the division-leading Tigers. Although they were in third place in the division, there were still over 50 games remaining on the schedule and a comeback was still very possible.
Carl Pavano was added through waivers for the hopeful playoff push. Pavano previously had great starts against the Tigers and the Twins thought his successful track record may come in handy should Minnesota find itself in a division-deciding series late in the season.
Guess what? The Twins did pull closer to the Tigers and found themselves just two games back with a four-game series coming up. Luckily, Pavano was slated to pitch the third game, and his Tiger-taming would certainly come in handy!
I don't need to tell you how that worked out. Pavano gave up seven runs on seven hits during 4.2 innings. Easily his worst outing while with Minnesota, this will also be his last start.
The pitch that ended the Twins' season came from the pitcher who was brought on to save it.
If I had to put odds on the Twins' chances to reach the postseason right now, I'd give them about a 10 percent chance. Not likely, and the Twins are forced to become scoreboard watchers, but that doesn't mean the final weekend won't be exciting.
Even if the season officially ended with that high fastball, there is still myriad of positive aspects to the season. Be sure to hang around Twins Target no matter how this season ends up; we'll have tons of great content as we head into the winter season, reviewing both the good and not-so-good parts of the year, as well as previewing the always-exciting Hot Stove League.
That said, a loss tomorrow afternoon guarantees the division title to Detroit. The least the Twins can do is make the Tigers work hard for the AL Central!no comments
Ron Gardenhire is generally regarded as a good manager. He is a likable man and a likable manager, but that doesn't mean he isn't second-guessed.
Yesterday, in both games of a crucial doubleheader, Gardy made some questionable decisions. From an ill-advised suicide squeeze to not bringing in Jose Mijares to face a lefty, Twins' fans are split on Gardy. Most like the man, some can't stand his managerial tactics.
It's accepted wisdom in baseball that left-handed pitchers perform better against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters, and vice versa. There are obviously exceptions, however, and a manager's judgement is usually best, so I'll let this one slide.
But some claim the so-called "small-ball spirit" Minnesota supposedly possesses accomplishes as much as the War of 1812 and should be stopped.
Should the Twins "progress/regress" into more of a station-to-station team; being patient at the plate and waiting for the pitcher to hang a pitch that you could belt over the outfield wall?
While there are plenty of home-run hitting guys on this Minnesota team, patience is another matter entirely. The Twins average 3.87 pitches per plate appearance, with Joe Mauer and Nick Punto (!) leading the way with over 4.16 and Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young bringing up the rear with around 3.53. The league average is actually just 3.84, but the Twins would need more patience if they wanted to completely eliminate the bunting and sacrificing from their "playbook."
If you haven't read the classic book, "Weaver on Strategy," I highly suggest you do so. Originally written in 1984, the short book describes how Earl Weaver, who sports a career .583 winning percentage and 13 seasons where his Baltimore Orioles finished either first or second in their division, manages a baseball game. His biggest weapon? The three-run homerun.
Of course, in order for that three-run homerun to be your greatest offensive threat, you'll need quite a few baserunners in front of your power hitters. Not surprisingly, "only one Weaver team failed to receive more bases on balls than its opponents," according to the book.
Theoretically, how would implementation of this strategy work for the Twins? Would the lineup be order similar to, or very different from, what is generally regarded as a "solid" lineup?no comments