September 18, 2009
We first pinned our hopes for down-to-the-wire baseball on the Red Sox, Rangers and the AL wild card.
But when Texas showed no signs of mounting a serious challenge, we moved onto the Rockies, Giants and the NL's extra bid.
But then the Rox did just enough to keep San Fran at bay, so today, in a last-ditch effort to taste any late September drama, we turn our thirsty throats toward the Tigers, Twins and ever-tightening AL Central dash.
Though Colorado and San Francisco are technically a half-game closer than the four games that separate Detroit and Minnesota, the AL Central has a better shot at ending in a photo finish. The Rockies and Giants are done playing each other for the season, while the Twins and Tigers will face each other seven more times, starting with a three-game series this weekend in the Twin Cities.
There's a possibility for excitement, but it's not like either team is impersonating Usain Bolt or Michael Johnson as the finish line approaches. The Twins have been playing well, but come into the series without the services of Justin Morneau(notes) (who's done for the season) and Joe Crede(notes) (who's couldn't be any closer to being done). The team is 74-72 and hasn't been more than three games over .500 at any point this season.
The Tigers, meanwhile, have lost seven of their last 10 games (all against Kansas City or Toronto) and can't get a decent pitching performance from one of their starters. Thoughts of 2006 — when Detroit seemed on cruise control to a division title only to relinquish it late — have to be creeping in and there's no wild card consolation prize to fall back on.
So do we stand a chance at being intrigued? Well, the Twins get the advantage of starting the comeback off at home and the math seems simple. With both teams having 16 games left to play, Minnesota probably needs to go 5-2 or 6-1 against Detroit to make it interesting over the other nine contests. Going 4-3 wouldn't stop their annual resurrection, but it goes without saying that it's easier to make up ground when your rival is in the opposite dugout and not in another city.
By the way, here's how the "other" nine games break down for each team:
Detroit — 3 @Indians, 3 @White Sox, 3 vs. White Sox
Minnesota — 3 @White Sox, 3 @Royals, 3 vs. Royals
At first glance, it would appear that the Twins have the easier road, but not when you consider that they're likely to face Zack Greinke(notes) twice over those six games with Kansas City. The Tigers also get six dates against the the White Sox and Chicago has said it's considering pulling the plug on the seasons of Gavin Floyd(notes) and Mark Buehrle(notes).
Given their scheudule, their inconsistency this season and the absence of Morneau, I think it's unlikely that the Twins outrace the Tigers in these few final weeks. However, Minnesota has always been the team that never stays on the mat for long and perhaps this is the spot where the Twins make the Tigers pay for not finishing them off earlier. They're 7-4 against Detroit this season and much stranger things have happened.
Who knows? Maybe we have some hope for a little late season drama, after all.
What do you think?