Did you see what I did there?
“The simple fact is, that if the Twins don’t win more than three of the
four games upcoming at Comerica Park between Monday and Thursday, they
can pretty much kiss their play-off hopes goodbye.”
Of course, I was utterly wrong as usual. Instead, with just a single game to go tomorrow the Twins and the Tigers are tied in the AL Central. If one team wins and the other loses, it’s game over for the team that goes down. If both win or both lose, we’ll be, ahem, “enjoying” yet another game #163 at the Metrodome on Tuesday.
I’m stunned the season has ended like this. I admit I was guilty of writing off the Twins a couple of weeks ago, and you’d be hard pressed to find any fans out there who were still optimistic. Sure, we all knew mathematically that Minnesota could still reach the play-offs, but also, a few days ago, after splitting that four game series with Detroit, the Twins’ chances of reaching the post-season had dwindled to about 7% or something absurdly low.
Instead, somehow, the Twins staved off a valiant Kansas City fightback on Friday night (squandering a ten run lead as usual). Then, on Saturday, Minnesota managed the impossible by scoring four runs off Zack Greinke, and seemed to be coasting, but the bullpen once again screwed up Nick Blackburn’s incredible pitching effort as the Royals tied it up at 4-4 before “Mr September” Michael Cuddyer (.342 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 19 games at first base since taking over there from injured Justin Morneau) hit his 31st home run of the year and Joe Nathan closed out the Royals again.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have been floundering against the White Sox who are “playing loose” with no pressure on them, and have already taken two out of three at Comerica Park. An epic choke for sure, but tomorrow could be a different matter for Detroit with Justin Verlander on the mound for them.
The Twins will bring back Carl Pavano on three-days rest to pitch against Luke Hochevar. It’s going to be a crazy final game at the Metrodome, how ever things pan out for the Twins, and it’s been a thoroughly exciting way to end the season.
Of course it’ll be saddening if the Twins don’t make it, but unlike last year, where they squandered their lead and could have clinched things sooner, this time they’ve been battling all the way from behind, and it’s been a fantastic effort regardless of the outcome tomorrow.
As expected, Justin Verlander pitched a great game Thursday, with an incredible career-high 13 strikeouts. Everyone’s been talking about Zack Greinke this season, but Verlander has thoroughly looked the part recently. After the crazy antics of the previous night, it wasn’t surprising that today’s game was a fairly low key affair at first, which the Tigers broke open in the sixth inning with five runs. But of course, this is baseball…
Tigers manager Jim Leyland took out Verlander in the seventh inning because he’d thrown 120+ pitches. He’d given up a Brian Buscher base hit and a Nick Punto walk (score: 5-0), but he still looked visibly upset, not surprisingly after such a domineering performance. Cue the Tigers bullpen meltdown, with the Twins scoring six runs to take a 6-5 lead, and just like that, Verlander doesn’t get a result, no more runs scored, and Joe Nathan had a quick and easy ninth to close out the game.
Despite the satisfaction of a series sweep against Detroit, the Twins now face a tricky set of games to round out May. 10 of their 17 upcoming games (without a day off) will be on the road, and their opponents will include the New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays. Gulp. If Minnesota can make it through that bunch more or less around the .500 mark, I think they’ll have done a good job, but it will be a very testing end to the month for sure.
Minnesota secured its second series victory in a row last night with a walk-off 14-10 win in the 13th inning. They’ll be going for the sweep today, but runs will probably be a lot harder to come by what with Justin Verlander on the mound for Detroit.
It was a topsy-turvy game last night that took almost five hours to complete. The Twins gave up a 9-7 lead in the seventh inning, but Jason Kubel hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to tie it 9-9. In the 13th, after hitting a lead-off triple, Curtis Granderson got a vital run due to Jesse Crain’s balk to make it 10-9, but the fireworks really started at the bottom of the inning. After Nick Punto scored on a Matt Tolbert single to level it, Joe Crede stepped up and hit a game-winning walk-off grand slam.
Tuesday’s game was a little more conventional. The Twins topped the Tigers 6-2, but it was by no means plain sailing. Kevin Slowey found himself pitching out of a jam quite a lot, but his persistence was encouraging, and he had a bit of run support this time round. When Delmon Young lost what looked like a fairly easy ball in the left field in the first inning, and Joe Mauer missed a home run by mere inches, it looked like it was going to be one of those games again, but Minnesota prevailed, and Joe hit a homer to pretty much the same place his next at-bat. Reliever Jesse Crain gave up a home-run with the score at 5-1, then followed that up with a walk which led to a chorus of boos, and his immediate removal, but luckily this time, Detroit didn’t get to exploit that lapse much further.
In other notes, it was nice to see Dontrelle Willis back on the mound for the Tigers, though the Twins line-up didn’t give him a particularly warm welcome! Still, he does bring a great deal of enthusiasm to the game and seems to really enjoy himself up there, despite his recent emotional problems. Of course, he won’t be judged on just this single outing, but how he performs the rest of the season. I remember watching him pitch for the Marlins back in the 2003 World Series. Even though I wasn’t really much of a baseball follower back then, he certainly left an impression.