What could be the final regular-season game at the Metrodome, might also be one of the most memorable.
Having surged into a tie for first place in the AL Central heading into the final day of the season, the Twins are in position to possibly claim the division title with a fourth straight victory Sunday against the Kansas City Royals.
Michael Cuddyer’s(notes) tiebreaking solo homer in the eighth inning gave Minnesota (85-76) a 5-4 win over Kansas City on Saturday. A few hours later, the Twins moved into a tie with Detroit atop the Central standings after the Tigers dropped their third straight, 5-1 to Chicago.
If Minnesota and Detroit remain tied after Sunday, a one-game playoff will be played Tuesday afternoon, pushing back the final regular-season game at the Metrodome before the Twins move to the new outdoor Target Field in 2010.
“This is what it’s all about,” said Cuddyer, whose homer came after the Royals scored three runs in the top of eighth to tie the game. “When you break spring training, you hope to experience this. All 162 games are going to count. You can’t go wrong with that.”
The Twins, who lost in a one-game playoff to the White Sox last season, have a chance to cap an already special weekend of celebration and memories by continuing their surge with another victory and possibly their first division title and playoff appearance since 2006, if they win and the Tigers lose.
Saturday’s victory gave Minnesota a share of first place for the first time since May 14.
“What we’ve done and the run we’ve had up to this point has been pretty special,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team has won 15 of 19. “These guys really have just huge hearts out there.”
Cuddyer has been a big reason for the team’s recent success. The versatile veteran moved from right field to first base after former AL MVP Justin Morneau(notes) was lost for the season with a back injury on Sept. 12. Since then, Cuddyer is batting .342 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 19 games.
He’s hitting .302 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs against the Royals (65-96) this season.
Delmon Young(notes) had a three-run double for the Twins, one night after hitting his first career grand slam and driving in five runs in a 10-7 win over Kansas City. He’s 9 for 16 in his last four contests.
While rookie Brian Duensing(notes) was scheduled to start the finale for Minnesota, Gardenhire said after Saturday’s contest that he’ll go with veteran Carl Pavano(notes) (13-12, 5.07 ERA) on three days’ rest.
Pavano is 3-3 with a 6.63 ERA this season against Kansas City, but won his last two starts versus the Royals. He allowed four runs in six innings of a 9-4 win at Kansas City on Sept. 25.
The right-hander, however, gave up seven runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss at Detroit on Wednesday.
Hochevar, however, looks to avoid losing a third straight start after giving up eight runs in six innings of an 8-2 loss at New York on Monday.
“I need to do a better job of executing,” said the right-hander, who’s 1-9 with a 7.66 ERA in his last 12 starts.