The Minnesota Twins were the first team in the majors to clinch a division title. The AL Central champs haven’t won much since.
After clinching the division late last Tuesday when the Chicago White Sox were eliminated from the Central race in Oakland, the Twins (92-64) have had plenty of time to adjust their rotation and rest some key players for the division series.
Minnesota, though, still has a chance to beat out Tampa Bay (93-63) and the New York Yankees (93-64) for home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Although the Rays and Yankees both lost Monday, the Twins remained third in that race following a 10-8 defeat to the Royals (64-92).
Since Blackburn (10-10, 5.23 ERA) threw seven innings of five-hit ball in a 5-1 win over Cleveland last Wednesday, Minnesota’s starters are a combined 0-2 with an 11.74 ERA.
“We better get the edge back,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team hasn’t lost five in a row since a six-game skid May 15-20, 2009. “We’re swinging the bats better but it won’t make a difference if we don’t pitch better.”
While Blackburn will likely follow Francisco Liriano(notes), Carl Pavano(notes) and Brian Duensing(notes) should Gardenhire go with a four-man rotation in the postseason, the right-hander said he wouldn’t be upset if he doesn’t make a playoff start.
“I’ll just be disappointed in what led up to me not being there,” said Blackburn, 3-2 with a 1.81 ERA in six starts since being recalled from the minors Aug. 22.
Blackburn, who has no record and a 9.64 ERA in two starts against Kansas City this season, is trying to match his career high in wins set each of the last two years.
Acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in July, O’Sullivan gave up two runs and four hits over six-plus innings of Thursday’s 4-2 victory at Cleveland. The right-hander had earned a win in relief Aug. 22, but was 0-6 with a 7.84 ERA in 10 starts with his new team.
“It’s been a little bit rough, so it feels good to finally be able to contribute the way I want to,” O’Sullivan told the Royals’ official website.
The right-hander lasted 4 2-3 innings in a 5-4 loss at Minnesota on Sept.6, walking a career-high five and surrendering five runs and seven hits.
Minnesota leads the season series 12-4.