Games back: 4.0
For weeks we've been back and forth on this. Every time the Twins hit a streak of luck and run off a couple of wins they manage to take a step back. And yet every time they're pushed to the brink, to the point where it seems they can do no right and nothing more than a whisper would push them into the abyss of elimination, they find a way to scratch and fight back above .500.
In most divisions that wouldn't be good enough. But in the AL Central it's a reality, and it's making for another heartburn-happy September.
Thanks to Zack Greinke and the Kansas City Royals, the Tigers will be prowling through Minneapolis this weekend with a four-game lead over our Minnesota Twins. Forget records, this is all about the gap to first place. We all understand what's at stake here.
Both Justin Morneau and Joe Crede are out for the season, leaving the middle of the order down 40% on their power hitters. Michael Cuddyer is filling in at first base, giving Ron Gardenhire the chance to play Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young everyday. Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris will be picking up more of the time at third.
Dontrelle Willis has been out for some time, but both Nate Robertson and Jarrod Washburn are fighting injuries and won't pitch this series. Detroit has no scheduled starter for Sunday's contest.
Friday, September 18: Rick Porcello vs Brian Duensing
Saturday, September 19: Justin Verlander vs Carl Pavano
Sunday, September 20: TBA vs Scott Baker
Rick Porcello: For a kid who won't be able to legally drink until two days after Christmas, Porcello doesn't seem to be too worked up over the pressure he's been facing with his team down the stretch. His fastball has good sink and it's been his best pitch, while his breaking ball(s) and off-speed pitch haven't been quite as effective. Porcello will beat you by inducing contact, and because his ground ball rates are so good (54.8%) you'll need to string together two or three hits on most occasions before you score a run. If he does let one get up, however, they're a little more likely to get a little boost. If the Twins are getting a lot of line drives or are hitting some hard flies on Friday night, it should be a sign that they're seeing him pretty well. Hopefully that would turn into runs. If Porcello gets into a groove, however, those innings could start flying by with nothing more to show than a string of 6-3 put outs.
Justin Verlander: Verlander is good. I'd probably vote for Zack Greinke for the Cy Young, but Verlander isn't too far off. Over 12.1 innings in two starts versus the Twins this year he's allowed seven runs over 12.1 innings, giving up 12 hits, five hits and striking out 19. Yes, 19.
Magglio Ordonez: He's really bounced back, and all that's missing from his game is power. Sort of like Bobby Abreu. Only with less power. He's back to hitting third for the Tigers, hitting .347/.418/.493 since the All-Star break.
Brandon Inge: Still looks like the biggest jerk to ever jerk a jerk. Doing a great Joe Crede impression this year. If Joe Crede were healthy.
Adam Everett: Anybody wish we'd given him another shot? He's hitting a paltry .244/.296/.335, but that's not much worse than some of our other infielders. His UZR/150 is only 4.2, but that's better than any of the five guys the Twins have tried at the spot this year. For reference, Orlando Cabrera's UZR/150 with the Twins is -17.9. He's also still making plenty of plays outside of his zone (36 and counting), although not as frequently as he once was.
Miguel Cabrera: Also awesome. The man is only 26 and has amassed
438 205 home runs. In the history of the Minnesota Twins, only Harmon Killebrew [edit: and Kent Hrbek and Bob Allison and Tony Oliva and Kirby Pucket end edit] and has ever hit more home runs than a 26-year old. Incredible. And let's not even pretend he's a one-dimensional offensive force.
Fernando Rodney: Tigers fans, this is a closer. Rodney isn't a bad pitcher, but after dealing with Todd Jones for so long it has to be like watching the second coming of...wait...oh my god, really? Todd Jones is Detroit's career save leader? I feel so dirty.
You want meaningful autumn baseball? This might be as close as we get. Get out and support the Twins this weekend if you can, and if not, then we'll see you here.