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Anything Less...

Silva falters to Tribe offense; Twins rally implodes.

In Monday night's game thread I mentioned that the playoffs for the Twins had begun.  Entering the series trailing the division leading Indians by five and a half games, Minnesota was in a unique position to make up significant ground over the next week and a half.  Through September 5, the Twins had six games against Cleveland sandwiching a four-game/three-day series against Kansas City.  Minnesota is down 0-1 after the opening salvo.

If there's any hope left for October, the Twins need to take four of the remaining five games from the Indians.  Taking all five would be ideal.  Minnesota will also need to take three of four from the Royals to maintain momentum.  This, however, would mean going 7-2 in the next handful of games and, call me crazy, but I'm having trouble seeing it happening.

Through the first four innings Monday night, Paul Byrd had allowed just one baserunner (Jason Tyner) on a single which was immediately erased by a Nick Punto double play.  Entering the bottom of the fourth, Cleveland had already plated three runs with timely hitting, and by capitalizing on defensive mistakes by the Twins.  The Indians have a potent offense that had been at least as underachieving as the Twins in recent times, but they exploded for another four runs in the bottom of the inning...

It began with back-to-back singles by Casey Blake and Kenny Lofton, before Franklin Gutierrez moved the runners up through a successful bunt.  Silva then put Kelly Shoppach down 0-2, but Shoppach fouled off a handful of pitches before shooting a line drive off the base of the left field fence for a double.  Cleveland was up 5-0.

Silva pitched around Grady Sizemore and walked him on five pitches.  Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to the right side for the second out, but again each of the Cleveland baserunners had move up a base.  Travis Hafner then knocked them both in with a seeing-eye single up the middle.  It was 7-0.

Things were bleak.  But just like a microcosm of the Twins' season, they momentarily fought back just enough to keep you around.  In the top of the fifth Justin Morneau singled and eventually scored on a Mike Redmond RBI single.  Jason Kubel, who had also singled, came home on a wild pitch.  In the top of the sixth, Jason Bartlett continued his hot hitting with a line drive home run that just cleared the left field fence.

Down 7-3 in the top of the seventh, Michael Cuddyer led off by drilling a double to the right-center field gap.  Kubel then walked, putting two men on with nobody out and Redmond at the plate.  The same Mike Redmond who picked up an RBI in his last at-bat; the same Mike Redmond who always seems to get it done when the Twins need him the most.

Instead, on an 0-2 pitch Redmond swung and chopped a ground ball to Casey Blake just off of the hot corner bag.  He stepped on third, relayed to Cabrera who gunned the ball to Victor Martinez at first base.  5 unassisted-4-3, triple play.

Threat ended, and it essentially meant game over.

The loss is a hard one to take, not just because the first game of a series can be so pivotal but also because this series is so important to the Twins as a whole.  A Cleveland sweep wipes the Twins from the map and would leave Minnesota bruised and bleeding at 8.5 games behind with just 29 games remaining.  Anything less than a Twins sweep might just be prolonging the torture, and this is the situation the club finds themselves in going into Tuesday.

There is such little time left that every game, every inning, every at-bat needs to mean something.  Each game there needs to be a handful of players who step up and take the responsibility on their shoulders to be the leaders and to get the job done.  If the Twins are who we hope they can be they need to find a way to take the last two games of this series, and then find consistency by winning each series through the end of the season.  Anything less may not be good enough.

For those of you wondering about the math, I'll copy what TwinkieTown's Jon Marthaler did recently to illustrate Minnesota's situation.

Winning every series to the end of the year means going 22-9 (.710).  This would miraculously put the Twins at 89-73.  Cleveland would need to finish at 88-74, or end the last few weeks with a 15-17 record (.469).  Detroit would need to go 17-14 (.548).

Winning at the same percentage the Twins have all season would mean a 83-79 finish.  Cleveland would need to finish 9-23 (.281); Detroit 11-20 (.355).

Those are the two extremes, and either way it looks like the Twins would either have to suddenly catch fire or else get extremely lucky.  The latter is near impossible, which means the former is most probable (it's all relative).

This is a dire situation.  Minnesota needs to win.