Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tigers & Twins Face Off on Tuesday for AL Central

Both the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins live to fight another day.

The Tigers snapped a three game losing streak with 7 and two thirds innings pitched by their ace Justin Verlander en route to a 5-3 victory. It was Verlander's 19th victory of the season which ties him for the league lead in wins with C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees. Verlander also leads the AL in strikeouts and that might get him a few extra Cy Young votes.

Ryan Raburn drove in three of the Tigers five runs with two home runs. Magglio Ordonez also homered. The White Sox scored all three of their runs in the top of the 8th off Verlander. Tigers manager Jim Leyland took out Verlander with runners on first and second with Carlos Quentin representing the go ahead run. Quentin has killed Tigers pitching hitting 7 of his 21 home runs this season against Detroit. Leyland brought in Tigers closer Fernando Rodney to record the final four outs. Quentin hit a shot into Comerica Park's cavernous outfield by centerfielder Curtis Granderson made a diving catch to hold onto the lead.

The Twins demolished the Kansas City Royals 13-4. Jason Kubel drove in six runs with two three run homeruns. Delmon Young also hit two solo shots. Carl Pavano pitched five and two thirds innings giving up four runs on eight hits along with seven strikeouts. What a shrewd move for the Twins to pick up Pavano from the Cleveland Indians nearly two months ago.

So for the second year in a row the Twins will play a one game playoff to determine the AL Central. They did so a year ago against the Chicago White Sox and came up on the wrong end of a 1-0 score. This year the one game playoff is in the Metrodome. This could be the last game played in the Metrodome for the Twins as they will play at a new outdoor stadium named Target Field beginning in 2010. The Hubert H. Humpherey Metrodome is a football stadium. In the early years, it wasn't unusual for a ball hit on the outfield turf to bounce 40 feet in the air. Then, of course, there are those lights which many an outfielder has lost a ball.

But when the Metrodome is filled with noisy fans carrying homer hankies the Twins have an incredible advantage as was the case when they won the 1987 and 1991 World Series. Since 2002, the Twins have won the AL Central four times but were eliminated in the first round three of those occasions. But this Twins team has a different edge to it. When it was announced that Justin Morneau would miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his back it appeared the Twins were done.

However, since September 13th the Twins have gone 15-3. Players like Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and over the past few days Delmon Young have really stepped up their game. The Tigers have gone 11-10 over the same period. That's slightly over .500 ball which under normal circumstances would have been good enough. But not this year. The Twins picked up 5½ games on the Tigers in three weeks.

Or look at it another way. Going into action on September 13th, the Twins had a losing record of 71-73. In 48 hours from now they could be playing the New York Yankees in the ALDS. Baseball is a crazy game and why I love it so much.

The Twins send their ace Scott Baker to the mound on Tuesday while the Tigers counter with 20-year-old rookie Rick Porcello. Baker leads the Twins in wins with 15. Porcello has comparable stats with 14 wins. It was actually Edwin Jackson's turn in the rotation but Jackson has been ineffective recently. Over his last five starts, Jackson has given up 23 runs in 31 innings pitched and has a 1-3 record over that period. In his last start against the Chisox on Friday night, Jackson gave up eight runs in only five innings pitched.

Given the conditions, they would all point to a Twins win. But the game has to be played and the Tigers might still have some roar left in them and if they do it will neutralize the Twins crowd.

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