Pregame (10 games remaining)
With the Twins elimination number now into the single digits at nine, they draw the short straw and get to match up against the second-best squad in the American League. The Tampa Bay Rays, baseball's feel-good story and epitome of the term "team", have rebounded from ealier in the week and once again hold a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox. In spite of major absences from major players like Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton, they're 30 games over evens and are, at this point, the only team in the American League who has a shot of stealing home field advantage from the Angels in the playoffs.
To meet the charge is Glen Perkins, the one starting pitcher for the Twins who's been decidedly mediocre over his last 10 contests. Yet with only a pair of quality starts in that span and a 5.16 ERA, he's 5-2 in that span...talk about luck. At any rate, I prefer to think of it in a positive light, and that all this means that Perkins is due for a great night. He managed just three innings his last time out, and in fact, this month has allowed 24 hits (5 homers) in 13.2 innings, including five walks and just seven strikeouts. The 15 runs he's allowed (just 13 earned!) are shocking. And really there's no way of getting around it--he's got his work cut out for him tonight in Tampa.
The AL East leaders, meanwhile, send out 26-year old James Shields, who allowed five runs in five innings against the Twins back on April 16th. Shields is having a great year, and in spite of striking out an entire batter less per nine innings compared to last season continues to stymie hitters with his fastball/changeup combination. Over his last three starts, 23 innings, he's allowed just three runs on 17 hits. His biggest achilles heel, the fact that he's a completely different pitcher away from Tampa, doesn't help the Twins tonight--he's got a 2.34 ERA at home, with a .615 opponent OPS. Look at it this way...he's due to have a bad night. Right? Right?
For the Twins tonight against a right-hander I won't ruffle any feathers with my prediction: Span (RF), Casilla (2B), Mauer (C), Morneau (1B), Kubel (DH), Young (LF), Buscher (3B), Everett (SS), Gomez (CF)
And for the home team Rays, who are happy to have Longoria back in the fold: Iwamura (2B), Bartlett (SS), Pena (1B), Longoria (3B), Floyd (DH), Navarro (C), Hinske (LF), Gross (RF), Perez (CF)...I'm secretly hoping for Baldelli to get a start tonight, because it's been a while since I've seen him play...but the odds tell me Cliff Floyd gets the DH nod tonight.
|2008 - James Shields||13-8||30||30||3||2||0||0||200.2||192||86||78||22||37||149||3.50||1.14|
|2008 - Glen Perkins||12-4||24||24||0||0||0||0||145.1||174||75||71||23||38||70||4.40||1.46|
09/18/08 7:10 PM EDT
|Minnesota Twins||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Denard Span - RF||Akinori Iwamura - 2B|
|Alexi Casilla - 2B||Jason Bartlett - SS|
|Joe Mauer - C||Carlos Pena - 1B|
|Justin Morneau - 1B||Evan Longoria - 3B|
|Jason Kubel - DH||Rocco Baldelli - DH|
|Delmon Young - LF||Dioner Navarro - C|
|Matt Tolbert - 3B||Ben Zobrist - LF|
|Nick Punto - SS||Gabe Gross - RF|
|Carlos Gomez - CF||Fernando Perez - CF|