First Pitch: 6:10 pm CDT
Radio: WCCO 830, TIBN / The Wolf 102.9 FM
It doesn’t feel quite right to say that Game 59 is the penultimate contest of the season. Still, even with an arbitrary number of matchups comprising this year’s abbreviated schedule, you can’t shake that September sense that this is it — last wraps on your regular season reps, and last chance to lay claim to a division title flag that will still be waving above Target Field even after everything goes back to normal.
Here’s the skinny on that division title.
If the Twins win tonight, and the Chicago White Sox lose, the AL Central will belong to Minnesota. No matter what happens on Sunday, the Twins would hold the tiebreaker with Cleveland, and the Sox wouldn’t be able to catch up.
If we beat the Reds and the Sox win as well, all it would take would be a Twins win OR Chicago loss on Sunday for Minnesota to end the year in first place.
If we lose tonight...well, let’s not go down that route. All you need to know is that if the Sox and Twins end this evening in a tie, there’s going to be some heavy-duty scoreboard watching tomorrow afternoon.
Obviously, the easiest route to first place is by winning out, as you can’t catch what you can’t...catch. In an effort to put a pair of rivals firmly in the rearview mirror, Minnesota will be rolling out Michael Pineda, the man tabbed to start Game 3 of the Wild Card Round, should one be necessary.
Pineda’s been more or less tuning up all year; this will be just his fifth start of the season, and they’ve all come in September, following his suspension. The Twins have won all four games he’s appeared in, including his outing against Cleveland two weeks ago, his poorest of the year (4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.)
He’s been able to pitch deep into ballgames despite a lack of ramp-up time; his only glaring weak spot so far has been pitch economy in his last two outings.
On the flip side of the hill is Luis “Not That Luis Castillo” Castillo, a hot-and-happening All-Star righty who’s got over 500 strikeouts in less than 100 major-league starts, including 85 this season alone. After a back-and-forth start, Castillo has turned on the gas in September, earning the win in his last four outings, which include both a complete game and a 10-K affair.
So, despite both teams having clinched postseason tickets, it won’t be an easy cruise through to the end. The Twins have some work to do, and they have tough opponents both ahead and behind them.
|Shogo Akiyama - LF||Max Kepler - RF|
|Jesse Winker - RF||Luis Arraez - 2B|
|Joey Votto - 1B||Eddie Rosario - LF|
|Eugenio Suarez - 3B||Nelson Cruz - DH|
|Mike Moustakas - DH||Jake Cave - CF|
|Freddy Galvis - 2B||Jorge Polanco - SS|
|Brian Goodwin - CF||Marwin Gonzalez - 1B|
|Kyle Farmer - SS||Ryan Jeffers - C|
|Curt Casali - C||Ehire Adrianza - 3B|
|Luis Castillo - RHP||Michael Pineda - RHP|
Minnesota will be without Byron Buxton and Josh Donaldson tonight (as well as LaMonte Wade, Jr. and Edwar Colina, both of whom appeared in last night’s game and have since been optioned to the alternate site.) Luis Arraez is back in the starting lineup, and Devin Smeltzer lurks in the bullpen.