The Minnesota Twins have seen what this before. But this time, Minnesota welcomed it with open arms. Rewind to Game 163 for the Twins and White Sox in the 2008 season after they finished the regular season tied at the top of the AL Central.
Nick Blackburn and Tuesday’s starter, John Danks, battled to a 0-0 tie through six, proving how evenly matched the two teams were.
All it took to eliminate the Minnesota Twins from the playoffs that night was one swing in the bottom of the seventh by the man who has the most home runs against them in club history.
Minnesota lost 1-0 that night to the bat of Jim Thome, and the White Sox felt the bliss of home run immortality.
Jim Thome has clearly heard the saying “what comes around goes around,” and made the White Sox pay Tuesday. Just like the pain he and the pale hose inflicted on Twins’ fans just two years ago.
In what is truly a pivotal series, Thome hit a walk-off homer with one on and the Twins down a run in the bottom of the tenth, putting the White Sox four games back in the AL Central.
Although there is a month and a half left of the regular season, this is a big loss for the White Sox, and Minnesota would strike quite a blow to the White Sox chances of coming back to get the AL Central playoff spot with two more wins to round out the series.
Considering their upcoming schedules, with Chicago still having to face the darker Sox and the Yankees, and the Twins only having the AL West, divisional opponents, and the Blue Jays to finish the campaign, you have to put a check mark in the Twins column under “easier road left in the season.”
Fill in another box for the Twins under the “head to head games played” as they’ve beaten the Sox nine of the 13 this year.
Finally, make it a clean sweep for the Twins and fill in the box next to the “mental side of the game,” as Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune illustrated with Twins beat writer Lavelle E. Neal on KFAN.
“They’re in the White Sox head,” Rogers said. “There’s no doubt about it. They (Chicago) got the Twins two years ago, but since then it’s been one sided.”
In fact, the only advantage the Sox may hold against the Twins overall is their starting staff, which ranks fifth in the AL in ERA.
Buehrle, Floyd, and Danks are a very formidable top three, and with the recent acquisition of Edwin Jackson from Arizona, they go four deep at least, with #5 being ten win veteran Freddy Garcia.
The Twins have had their struggles in the rotation, with only Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano being consistently serviceable the entire year.
Still, the Twins have the second best bullpen ERA in the majors, somewhat making up for their starters struggles.
Additionally, the man on the Sox staff that has been lights out vs. Minnesota his last five starts against them, John Danks, was just lit up Tuesday by the #1 offense in the majors.
The Twins have the advantage on almost every level against the White Sox and perhaps most importantly, as Tuesday proved, they have the man that has been the turning point in so many Twins-Sox battles over the years.
Jim Thome may get thrown out at home in the early innings as he did Tuesday, but when it comes down to crunch time, the balls he hits pass fielders like they’re standing still.
If you ask me, there’s no better asset to have in an AL Central battle than Jim Thome.
-Mike GallagherFollow paulmbanks