September 23, 2008

Do or Die

The Twins split the 4 game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Twins played well, however the real negative is that Francisco Liriano is the only starter that lasted past 4 1/3 innings, and along with Kevin Slowey was the only starter to last past 1 1/3 innings. The starters have really hit a wall in September and they are really struggling. They really need to get their act together this last week of the season, if the Twins want to reach the post season.

The White Sox come to town tonight for the most important series of the season. The Twins sit 2 1/2 games behind Chicago with just 6 games remaining for both teams. After they face one another, the Twins will face the Royals while the White Sox will head back to Chicago to face the Indians.

It all comes down to this. Here are the matchups:
Tuesday: RHP Javier Vazquez (12-14, 4.32) vs. RHP Scott Baker (9-4, 3.69)
Wednesday: LHP Mark Buehrle (14-11, 3.87) vs. RHP Nick Blackburn (10-10, 4.15)
Thursday: RHP Gavin Floyd (16-8, 3.84) vs. RHP Kevin Slowey (12-11, 3.85)
The White Sox arranged their rotation in preparation for this series, while I'm sure the Twins wish that they could exchange Blackburn for Francisco Liriano. Nonetheless, both teams have good enough starters to sweep the series, which should make it very entertaining.

The Twins offense ranks 3rd in the AL with 801 runs scored, while the White Sox are 5th with 772 runs scored. However, the White Sox lead the league with 223 home runs while the Twins are second to last with only 108 longballs. The reason why this possess a problem is that Baker, Blackburn and Slowey have all been prone to giving up the longball this season, which could make it very easy for the White Sox offense to get quick runs. It's certainly something to keep an eye on. The Twins have walked a league-low 389 batters, but have given up the 3rd most hits in the majors with 1,508.

The key to this series is our starting pitching. Buehrle & Vazquez have a combined ERA of 5.51 in 5 starts this season. However, Floyd has beaten the Twins 3 times already this season (in 4 starts) with an ERA of 1.86 ERA. He has averaged going 7+ innings in each of his starts, which makes the Twins primary objective vs. him (and I suppose all of the starters) is to knock him up early and get to their bullpen. The White Sox bullpen has a team ERA of 3.89 which is just slightly better than the Twins bullpen ERA of 3.94. Both teams have been hit hard with an inconsistent bullpen this season, so the earlier the Twins can get to them, the better.

I am really looking forward to what the Twins can vs. the White Sox. But I will say that regardless of if the Twins make the playoffs, I believe that this season is already a success. Who would have thought last winter that the Twins would be contending for the playoffs with just a week left in the season? Not too many can say that they truly saw us doing that, especially with the off-season that we had.