White Sox Factor Loom Large in Twins\Tigers Play-in Game

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By Soxman

Tip your cap to those scrappy Twins.  They became your 2009 AL Central Division Champions in one of the best baseball games I’ve ever watched.  12 innings of exciting action, where neither team would go quietly into that good night. As I watched the game closely, I could not help but marvel at how much of an impact the Chicago White Sox had on this game. Confused?  Well then, read this break:

1.    The Chicago White Sox won four of the last six games against the Tigers to essentially force them into the tie-breaking game.

2.    Miguel Cabrera, who was almost traded to the White Sox in 2008 for Josh Fields, Aaron Poreda and others, homered in the game.  He also played on the Marlins when Ozzie Guillen was the third base coach.

3.    Former White Sox right fielder Magglio Ordonez, singled in Curtis Granderson, a Chicago native, whose favorite team growing up was the Sox.  Ordonez also hit a crucial HR in the 8th to tie the game.

4.    Orlando Cabrera, a member of the 2008 AL Central Champion White Sox, give the Twins the lead in the 7th.

5.    Matt Guerrier, a 10th round draft pick by the White Sox in 1999, nearly blew the lead by walking two and giving up a run in two thirds of an inning.

6.    Jon Rauch, a 3rd round pick by the White Sox in 1999 pitched two thirds of a scoreless inning in the 7th.

This Twins team also has to draw some comparison to the 2005 Chicago White Sox as they are a team built primarily on speed and defense, and relying on smart baseball to win.  They also lost one of their best power hitters for the season in Justin Morneau, who interestingly enough was passed over by the White Sox in 1999, in favor of Jon Rauch.  In 2005, we lost Frank Thomas to a broken foot and were forced to use Carl Everett in the DH spot.

In 2005, we had to rely on a “rookie” push down the stretch to fill critical holes.  Bobby Jenks stepped in at closer for the injured Dustin Hermanson, just as Brian Duensing filled in as a starter in place of probable staff ace, Kevin Slowey, who broke his wrist earlier in the season.

Regardless of your hatred for the Twins as a Sox fan, you have to respect what they have accomplished, given their injuries and payroll. They now face their biggest test, defining the biblical identity of David when they face the Goliath New York Yankees.  On paper, this should be a fairly easy victory for the Yankees right?sox-harmony

After all, the Twinkies haven’t won a game in New York in over two years.  They are 0-7 in the regular season against the Yankees as well.  For those who claim that the post season is a brand new season, history is not on your side.  In two previous playoff series against the Yankees, the Twins are 0-2.

So why not be optimistic about beating a team whose collective salaries are more than triple your payroll?  How about the phrase “Fear most those who have nothing to lose?”

You could also argue that momentum is on the Twinkies side.  Despite the Yankees having the best regular season record in baseball, the Twins ended the season, 17-4- acting as baseball’s hottest team when it mattered most. Four intensely emotional games of baseball, 7 if you count their last series against the Tigers, extra innings, a tired bullpen, and a 3:00 a.m. touchdown in New York to play a 5:00 p.m. game: the Twins would not have it any other way.

If ever there were an underdog to love, it is the 2009 Twins.  My competitive hatred will resume after this season ends.

Twins vs. Tigers: Who Do Sox Fans Cheer For?

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By Soxman

Two teams, one game, and the winner moves on to the postseason while the loser goes home for the winter.  Sox fans know this scenario oh too well as we needed the famous “blackout play-in game” in 2009 to earn our central division crown.  For Twins fans, it is as Yogi Berra says, “dejvu all over again!” So as the Twin vs. Tigers game on Tuesday approaches, several perplexing questions are likely peculating through White Sox fans minds:twins_logo

Who do I cheer for?  Is it wrong be interested in this game at all?  To pick a side?  Can I cheer for my enemy and still be called a Sox fan? As Hawk Harrelson would say:  “YEEEEAAASSS.” Before you read my pick, understand a couple of  things.

First, while I’m a diehard Sox fan, I’m also a fanatic of the game of baseball…period.  A tiebreaker represents all that is exciting in this game, even if a team only needs 87 wins to reach the postseason. Second, there is no right or wrong answer in this equation.  That’s the beauty of the game. Let’s examine some points of debate:

The “ex” Sox factor
The Tigers have Magglio Ordonez and former coaches Jim Leyland and Gene Lamont. “O wee OOOO…MAGGGLIO,” left Chicago via the Scott Boras express, and the perception among Sox fans was he used the Sox to get a better offer from the Tigers.  It was the first shot heard ’round the Cell, that the Sox would refuse to play ball with Boras. The Twins have Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Orlando Cabrera and World Series Hero Joe Crede. Crede was a “Don’t Stop Believin” voice of the 2005 World Champion Sox.
Advantage:  Twins.


The Underdog Factor

Often synonymous with payroll, this year there is even more at play.  The Twins will be without their best power hitter Justin Morneau, and defensive stalwart Joe Crede, who both are out with back issues. The Tigers are without Dontrelle Willis and Joel Zumaya. Team Payroll?  Detroit has the 5th highest in baseball at just over $115 million. The Twins rank 24th at about $65.3 million. Advantage:  Twins

The Economy
With the flaying automobile industry and a depressed economy, Detroit has been referred to as a city “that needs the play-offs” as an emotional shot in the arm. Opponents argue, the Detroit Red Wings domination should be plenty.  People then counter argue with the Detroit Lions. Seriously though, according to a 2007 census study, Michigan has a 12% poverty rate, while Minnesota has an 8.1% poverty rate. Advantage:  Tigers

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Always the Bridesmaid Factor

While the Tigers won the AL Pennant in 2006, they did it as the AL wildcard team and have never won an A.L. Central Title since the 1998 realignment. The Tigers last won the World Series in 1984, their 4th in team history. The Twins have won the AL Central 4 times since 1998. They last won the World Series in 1991, their third in team history. Advantage: Twins by numbers, Tigers by Underdog Factor.

The Sox Hate Factor
This is pure opinion here.  I hate the Metrodome as a Sox fan because of our record there.  I hate the Metrodome as a baseball fan, as it’s a horrible place to watch a game.  I respect the Metrodome as an outsider because of the electric advantage it gives the Twins.
Detroit Tiger fans invade U.S. Cellular Field at a far greater rate and with a higher rate of irritability than Twins fans do.
Advantage: Tie

For me, its always about the underdog, or the little guy.  I’ve got to go with the Minnesota Twins.  With a total team salary that is 45% less than their opponent, and two of their better players injured, it’s amazing they made it this far.  Say it is so Joe…Crede that is. So for now….big gulp….larger swallow…Go Twins!  At least it’s not the Cubs.

And as Sox fans we can always say that we helped the Twins get there by taking 4 of 6 from the Tigers to end the season. To Twins Fan and Sportsbank Writer Peter Christian, remember who said your team would be here in August?  You can remember me in the Call Outs. Now that all the information has been presented to you, who are you cheering for Sox fans?

Tigers must buck expectations to sew this pennant up

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By H. Jose Bosch

Thank you Ozzie Guillen.

Thanks to your tirade, not only are we blessed with another great sound bite, but you also fired up your club enough to win the series finale and keep the American League Central pennant “race” alive.

And let’s be honest, this isn’t a race as much as it’s two teams trying desperately to be the first one to hit the golf course this offseason. During this last month of the season I can’t help but think of the South Park episode — The Losing Edge — where South Park and all the other Little League teams try to lose so that they can enjoy their summer.
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Are the Tigers so sick of playing that they’d rather lose on purpose for comfy couches and college football? Well, no, obviously. They’re trying, despite what their results show. But trying doesn’t mean anything if there is 1 in the loss column at the end of the day. (I’ve filled my hokey coach speak quote of the day)

Detroit now has seven straight home games to end the season, the next four against the Twins, who stand just two tiny games back behind Detroit.

The good news is that the Tigers have played well at home all season. And three wins during the series would clinch the division title. The bad news is we’re relying on the Tigers to do just that, win when it matters and put this title away.

Nothing from this season has shown me Detroit can put this division away during this one series. Not that the Tigers don’t have the talent to win. But if Detroit sews this pennant up, it probably won’t be until the last two days of the season.

My heart says the Tigers will take the first three games and the rest won’t matter because they’ll be bathing in Champaign. But my head says Detroit will go 2-2 during this series and will need to clinch against Chicago on the weekend.

This post also appears at Michigan and Trumbull.

All is right with the world (for now)

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By H. Jose Bosch

The Tigers avoided an embarrassing sweep in Minnesota and who, of all people, helped save the bleeding?

Nate Robertson.

Yes, that Nate Robertson, the one who has been battling against injuries and being a good pitcher most of the year. He threw five strong innings, allowed just two runs and struck out six batters in the Tigers’ 6-2 win Sunday afternoon.

He also stranded six runners, so his performance wasn’t easy on the heart, but he gave Detroit a mini-jumpstart, something the team needed desperately.

If you read my last post I made things seem really dire and it felt like it. But the Twins gained just one game on Detroit over the weekend which doesn’t sound as bad as saying “they lost two out of three games.” A three-game lead still isn’t comfortable, but it sounds a lot better than two games.

The Tigers still have to start hitting the ball better as they stare down their final two road series of the season but at least they have a good taste in their mouth going into Cleveland. And it helps to have a day off today this late in the year.

Placido Polanco is doing his part, hitting .371 during in September and Miguel Cabrera has been a picture of consistency all year. It’s time other players start showing some life right about now.

All Detroit needs is for a different guy to step up on each night. The Tigers don’t need Curtis Granderson so go on a tear or Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge to start hitting better. But if any three of them can step up and have a big night at least once or twice over the last two weeks of the season, the Tigers will seal the deal on this pennant.

This is it folks. This is the point of the year where we all take a deep breathe and plunge into the deep abyss that is the end of the regular season.

Thirteen games.

Thirteen games until triumphant victory or soul-crushing defeat.

This post can also be viewed at the blog Michigan and Trumbull

Tigers chipping away at hope one terrible loss at a time.

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By H. Jose Bosch

Words can’t describe how unbelievably perturbed I am with the Tigers’ latest “effort” during the first two games of a pivotal series against the Twins.

Where is the pride? Where is the heart? Where is the pitching?

No one would confuse the Tigers pitchers with other fine staffs in St Louis, New York or San Francisco. But at least the pitchers kept Detroit in the game on most nights. I’ve known all year the offense had lost a lot of its punch, so I clung to the hope that the pitchers could hold together — even if it had to be with duck tape and gum — long enough to get into the playoffs.

It doesn’t matter to me that the potential opponent is the Yankees. Anything is possible in the postseason. But nothing is possible when you can’t even freaking get into the postseason.

Saturday’s game really put me over the edge. Justin Verlander keeps his team in the game all afternoon and then loses his focus for one inning and it all unravels. Maybe Jim Leyland didn’t have confidence in his bull pen and Verlander got tired. Maybe Verlander really did feel good and the Twins are just that superior.

I don’t care. The Tigers had their best pitcher on the mound, and a slim three-game lead against their opponent, and they still couldn’t win. Hey, it’s not like the pennant is on the line or anything.

Now Detroit leads the division by just two games and I wouldn’t be surprised if the lead falls to one game when the sun sets on the weekend.

Am I giving up? Of course not. But even with a two-game lead it feels like the Tigers are fighting a losing battle like General Custar. My dreams are haunted by a whole bunch of Minnesota Twins raining down on my team with their fundamentally sound baseball, clutch hitting and late-season comeback experience.

I hate you Minnesota. I hope I never have to hear your name again once the postseason begins.

For now I’m going to get some rest, take a breather and refill my optimism cup for Sunday’s game. The Tigers have a division to win. … I hope.

This post can also be viewed at the blog Michigan and Trumbull.

Are the Minnesota Twins the team to beat in the AL Central?

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By Joe Storms

The highly anticipated three game weekend series between the Twins and Tigers will hopefully give baseball fans the drama and excitement of a September divisional battle that otherwise seems to be missing this season.  The Twins trail the Tigers by 4 games with 16 games remaining for both teams.  But does Minnesota have a realistic chance at stealing their first division crown since 2006?

The Twins and Tigers play each other 7 times in the final 16 games, but Detroit also has the added challenge of facing the Chicago White Sox 6 more times before the division is decided.  The challenges for Detroit don’t end with just the schedule either.  The pitching staff suddenly seems full of holes as recently acquired starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn is out of the rotation for the time being with a knee injury.  His replacement for Sunday’s game, Nate Robertson, has battled his own injury problems this season and since the start of 2008, is 1-2 with an ERA of 6.57 against the Twins. Their starter for Saturday is ace Justin Verlander, but he too has struggled against Minnesota.  Since 2007, the right-hander has suffered a 1-4 record with a 5.40 ERA at the hands of the division rival.  Also, All-star Edwin Jackson seems to be slowing down after a strong season as he is only 2-2 with a 6.03 ERA in his last five starts, which also could raise a legitimate concern about 20 year old rookie sensation and Friday night’s starter Rick Porcello.  Already having pitched 148 innings this year, does he have the conditioning and arm strength to avoid the end-of-the-season slump that plagues so many young pitchers when they first enter the majors?

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Meanwhile, the Twins have also faced injury problems of their own but seem to be rallying around it, unlike the Tigers who have lost 7 of their last 10.  They have scrapped together a four game win streak since learning their former MVP, Justin Morneau, is done for the season due to a stress fracture in his back.  A struggling Morneau of late may have even been holding back the Twins.  Since August 15th, when Morneau’s batting average finally dipped below .300 for the first time since April 28th, Morneau batted .100 (7 for 70) and the Twins have posted a respectable 18-13 record.  A closer look, however, shows that they are 9-1 in games without Morneau and only 9-12 when he played.  A big reason is due to timely hitting and guys stepping up their game to compensate for his absence.  The Twins are hitting .274 with runners in scoring position this season but in those games without Morneau the number jumps up to .352.  The main reason for the jump is due to Michael Cuddyer and MVP candidate Joe Mauer as both seem to have stepped up their play with the first baseman out.  In those 10 games, Cuddyer is batting .419 with 13 RBIs, 6 doubles and 5 homeruns and Mauer is hitting .500 with 9 RBIs and 3 homeruns.

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Minnesota and Detroit enter the weekend series and the last few weeks on the schedule fighting for their playoff lives while battling key injuries with questions and concerns sprinkled through their lineup.  The Tigers lately have played like they are just holding on and hoping time runs out on the Twins.  Even though Detroit has a 4 game lead in the division, the eventual winner will be the team that overcomes the obstacles, rallies around each other and gets hot at the right time.  It has all of the makings for an exciting finish…