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Twins don’t give in: Another look at the A.L. Central

Published: October 2, 2009
Section: Sports


So the post season starts next week, and most teams already know what they will be doing. For the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched a playoff spot, and the Colorado Rockies have a magic number of one to clinch the National League wildcard spot. For the American League, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels have clinched the division, and the Boston Red Sox have clinched the wildcard. The only known match-up is the Angels hosting the Red Sox.

But once again I would like to focus on the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers who finished a four game series Thursday in Detroit. Granted this is because I am currently watching the game, and do not want to jinx anything, so bear with me through a little background information. On August 20, 2009 the Twins were five games below .500 and were not only 6.5 games behind that Tigers, but also 4 games behind the Chicago White Sox. It looked like their season was done. Luckily, one of the people who believed that the Twins still had a chance was the manager, Ron Gardenhire. He told the team to stay close (I am not sure what his definition of close is), and that there was seven games with Detroit at the end of the season so anything could happen. And then Justin Morneau went down followed by Joe Crede. And somehow the Twins still refused to give up.

Which leads up to the four game series that was supposed to start last Monday, but was postponed because of rain; this series would start off with a double header. Great… it’s not like the pitchers need any time to rest. At the beginning of the series the Tigers’ magic number was 6; in simpler words, if the Tigers won three games against the Twins they would advance to the postseason. The first game was Tuesday; the Twins won 3-2 in 10 innings. Starter Nick Blackburn was able to pitch 7 innings and gave up only 1 run. In the top of the tenth the Twins continued their tradition of getting hits in the right places when Orlando Cabrera singled allowing Denard Span to score; then Delmon Young hit a sacrifice fly to center field allowing Cabrera to score.

The next two games did not go so well for the Twins. The Tigers had a 5-0 lead over the Twins in the second game, and the Twins were able to answer back with four runs, but the winning run was Curtis Granderson’s solo home run off Matt Guerrier in the bottom of the eight. The Twins did score one run in the top of the ninth, but they could not get the last needed run. The series was tied 1-1, and the Twins were back to being 3 games behind.

Then came the third game, which the Tigers dominated. Carl Povano gave up seven earned runs, too much for the team to overcome. I actually stopped watching the game around the top of the seventh in hopes that maybe something would happen while I was not watching, but fate would not let that happen. The Twins lost and were now three games behind; Detroit was facing a division championship and playoff spot if they won on Thursday.

So Thursday came, and Minnesota came out with a 4-1 lead by the top of the fourth. They were able to double their score with a four-run in the eighth. The Tigers responded with two runs in the bottom of the eighth, and then the drama started. Twins pitcher José Mijares threw behind the back of batter Adam Everett and received a warning from the home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland was ejected from the game. Mijares was able to shake it off and get out of the inning with no more runs.

In the top of the ninth, Jeremy Bonderman hit Delmon Young in the knee on the very first pitch. This led to an ejection for Bonderman, and both teams’ benches cleared with people coming in from the bullpen as well. It would be sorted out with only a few more problems, and the top half of the inning was finished with the score still 8-3. To end the game Twins closer Joe Nathan came in even though it was not a save situation and had a shaky outing but was able to come away with the win.

The Twins were able to keep playoff hopes alive. They now have a three game series against the Kansas City Royals at home, while the Tigers will be playing the White Sox at home. In order for the Twins to win the division outright they will need to sweep the Royals and the White Sox will need to sweep the Tigers. To force a tiebreak against the Tigers, the Twins will need to sweep the Royals or win 2 out of 3 while the White Sox will need to win 2 out of 3 or sweep the Tigers, respectively. So I am going to do something that I very rarely do; hope the White Sox will play their best baseball of the season and sweep the Tigers. I know you can do it Chicago. And whatever happens, it will be an exciting week for the AL Central.