October 5, 2009

They never quit on us

Last year, after 162 games were over, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox had to determine the division winner by having a one-game playoff in Chicago. A year later, the Twins and Detroit Tigers find themselves in the same situation. But unlike last year, the Twins hold a significant advantage heading into Tuesday's season-deciding game.

As some may remember, the venue of the Twins and White Sox playoff game was decided by the flip of a coin. But soon after the Twins lost the coin flip and then to the White Sox, Major League Baseball implemented a rule change which stated that the venue of any one-game playoffs will not be by the sheer dumb luck of a coin flip, it will be by who has won the season series, which in both last year's case and this year's case would be the Twins.

Since the Twins beat the Tigers in ten of 18 games this season, the Twins will host the Tigers on Tuesday at the Metrodome. Under normal circumstances, the one-game playoff would be held the day after the season ends. But as many know, the Metrodome is holding a different event on Monday (I'm not going to even mention it as I'm sure everyone already knows) which is why the Twins and Tigers will play on Tuesday, one day before the start of the playoffs.

In their effort to tame the Tigers, the Twins will send Scott Baker, the undisputed Ace of the Twins' pitching staff. After a poor start to the season, Baker has settled in and has given the Twins a great chance to win time after time. In fact, since the start of June, Baker is 13-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 23 starts. Baker's repertoire features a great fastball, a slider, curveball and a change-up. According to Fangraphs.com, the effectiveness of Baker's fastball is behind that of only Zach Grienke and Justin Verlander's in the American League, two Cy Young candidates.

In turn, the Tigers will try to stop the streaking Twins by sending Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Rick Porcello to the mound. At 165 innings, Porcello is over the Tigers desired inning count on the season, which along with his overall experience makes some wonder if the 20-year-old is ready for such a big game. The other viable possibility is to have Edwin Jackson start on three-days rest, but nothing has been suggested to make me believe the Tigers are actually considering that option.

Porcello has made four starts this season against the Twins, but despite having an ERA of 3.09, he's won just once while losing twice. Both losses came on the turf at the Metrodome, a surface on which he's struggled on all season.

On top of that, Porcello will be responsible for halting a fired-up Twins offense that has scored 36 runs in four straight victories, lead by the efforts of Jason Kubel and Delmon Young. The two corner outfielders have gone 15 for 33 with six home runs and 19 RBI in the four game win streak. And luckily for the Twins, both have had success this season against Porcello. The two are a combined 12 for 20 with three doubles against the Tigers youngster.

Despite nearly everyone counting them out just a few weeks ago, the Twins have proven just why they're one of the best organizations in baseball. They have shown a resilience that other teams could only dream of and even more importantly have given their fans a team to be proud of. Even when their were overwhelming odds against them, and just about all of us gave up on them, they never quit on us.