This and every weekday a.m., let's rise and shine for what should be some of the finest fishin' along the Mighty Mississippi, if it's OK that all we catch are old socks someone tossed in the river. Today's Roll Call starts in Minneapolis (Gov. Palin can see it from her house) where the AL Central-leading White Sox went for a dip in the HHH Metrodome Piranha Tank in the first of a crucial three-game set against the second-place Twins.
Game of the Day: Twins 9, White Sox 3
It's the stupid math: Coming in three losses behind in the standings, the Twinkies probably need a sweep to have a true shot for their fifth division crown (and playoff spot) since '02. Well, you can't get three without the first one. Kevin Slowey Nick Blackburn Brad Radke Scott Baker shuts 'em down, Ron Gardenhire's son Jason Kubel hits two homers, Delmon Young does serious damage and Javier Vazquez pitches tiny in a big game for the umpteenth time.
Talking heads stop making sense: White Sox TV casters Ken Harrelson and Darrin Jackson go on and on about how much Ken Griffey Jr. killed the ball in batting practice. "What a show he put on," Harrelson said, as if that ever scored any runs in a game. Not two seconds later, the Griffter grounds meekly into a double play that killed what might have been a big first inning. In the bottom half, Hawk and D.J. complain that Vazquez really needs to throw his best pitch, the change-up. Not two seconds later, Kubel hits a hanging change halfway to Kent Hrbek's house. Harrelson later had a spiel about how the "sound" on the road is key reason the Sox, and other teams, might perform pooly away from home. Sounds like... BS.
Center switch: The Griffter did indeed go deep later, in the ninth, against homer machine Matt Guerrier. Water, meet underside of bridge. Ken Doll also had another funny looking play in the outfield. At least he ran, sort of, and made a flailing dive on Kubel's triple. Here are better options right now for the ChiSox in center field than Griffey Jr.: Brian Anderson, Dewayne Wise, Jerry Owens, Nick Swisher, John Cangelosi, Ken Griffey Sr., a Jack Russell Terrier, open pasture.
Executie-pies: The Twins took every extra base, always getting a big jump — on offense and defense — and had a smarter approach in every scenario. Nick Punto, the Original Gangsta Piranha, had a pretty squeeze bunt and a key stolen base. Typical Piranha feeding frenzy. Anyone could show you video of Kubel's homers, or his triple, or Baker working the curveball, but only Big League Stew has captured the Piranhas at their most destructive. Bring it:
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Feelin' Rundown (back on dry land):
Red Sox 5, Indians 4: Not even the mighty Cliff Lee can prevent Jason Bay — like a virgin, touched for the very first time — from clinching a playoff berth. "I'm a first-timer, but I definitely can get used to it," Bay said. "When I got called into the office the day I was traded, I remember [Pirate persons, yeeargh] saying to me, 'Thanks for all you did for us. Now go win a ring.' It finally paid off."
Yankees 3, Blue Jays 1: Mr. Jeter, it seems your playoff credit card has been declined.
Rays 5, Orioles 2 (Game 1); Rays 7, Orioles 5 (Game 2): First doubleheader sweep in team history. "Really?" manager Joe Maddon says. The Rays also announced they sold out the first two games of the ALDS series. "Really?" a surprised world reacts. The Magic Number to clinch the AL East is two. Really cool. "And just because if we win this division doesn't mean we can stop. We have to go all the way to Oct. 30 in my book," says J.P. Howell. Now we're really talkin'.
Dodgers 10, Padres 1: Nomah! He doesn't play much anymore, and it's probably a good thing, but he had a three-run deep that helped put this one out of reach quick. Blake DeWitt also hit a three-run homer. Later, cameras captured him and Casey Blake standing next to each other with their backs showing us "Blake" on one jersey and "DeWitt" on the other. How many other teammates around the league can make another teammates name? These are the things I need to know.
Brewers 7, Pirates 5: Prince Spaghetti Day comes 24 hours early, and Fielder's game-ending homer keeps the Barew Carew one game behind the Mets. His blast would be the kind of thing that would trigger momentum, if it existed, and Ned Yost said it didn't. Then again, Ned doesn't exist as he once did.
Mets 6, Cubs 2: The 'Ropolitans were coughing along until Johan Santana successfully employed the exploding bat trick to set up a big ol' comeback. The only way to increase the degree of difficulty for the Cubs fielders would have been to flood the infield and get a rolling rapids going.
Cardinals 7, D-backs 4: The Cards officially have been dealt out of the pennant race. The Dodgers Magic Numbah is three, which means the D-b's Reverse Magic Number — or, if you're into the brevity thing, "Elimination Number" — also is three.
Rockies 9, Tim Lincecum and Some Other Guys 4: Timmy sets San Francisco's single-season record for strikeouts with 252. But the Giants existed for about 75 years before going west, so Tim is still 15 Ks short of Christy Mathewson's actual team record. Thought you could fool us, huh, kid?
Braves 3, Phillies 2: Hamels OK, not great, and good ain't good enough sometimes. With their heroes unable to shave any more of the playoff Magic Numbers, the Philly Phaithful stowed the Phightin' cheering towels from the day before and reverted to the usual booing. No more Mrs. and Ms. Nice Guys.
Nationals 9, Marlins 4: They made a nice swim for it, but the Feesh. Are. Dead.
Reds 2, Astros 1: Joey Votto sounded like a proud papa, saying everyone was going blotto at first base over Edinson Volquez. "The runners stopped and said he had the best stuff they'd seen. He was pretty electric. You don't see that many guys look that foolish on pitches the way he was making them look and you're talking about good hitters." Votto added that every Astro also called Bud Selig a blouse-wearing poodle walker.
Rangers 6, Athletics 4: Jack Cust (191) inches closer to Ryan Howard's strikeout record (199) — though he would have to pass Mark Reynolds (198) and Howard, himself (195) to get there. Which he might do if neither strikes out like both didn't Tuesday. Did I leave anything out that time?
Royals 5, Tigers 0: The Royals discover that fourth place in the AL Central looks much like fifth. If the Tigers keep this up, finishing in sixth place is a real possibility. Before Zack Greinke dominated, Jim Leyland chatted about how things went for the Tigers in '08. "I stunk," Leyland says. "With the year we've had, I stunk. But I'll tell you what, I'm not the (expletive deleted) Lone Ranger." Tonto, then?
Mariners 9, Angels 6: M's dodge a century of losses, Angels backslide toward Rays in playoff home-field contest. That's it, we're out.
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Photo of the Day: Mr. Bubbly
In a devastating loss for the Boston Red Sox, the right hand of closer Jonathan Papelbon spontaneously begins to combust during the team's playoff-clinching celebration. Papelbon, screaming in pain, was later rocked to sleep by David Ortiz.
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Words of Mouth
"We're dangerous in the playoffs. Everybody knows that." — Ortiz