Tuesday

Twins @ White Sox, 6:37pm CST


Hello again everybody...

Welcome to a special Tuesday version of The Sports Take. Writing 5 blogs in a week is a bit of a task, but given the circumstances this week, it has to be done.

So here we are. The Twins and the White Sox have played 162 games and finished with identical 88-74 records.

First, let me address yesterday. Yes, I was rooting for the Tigers. But realistically, they had nothing to play for, and it didn't surprise me a bit that Chicago was able to win that game. At least it was rookie-of-the-year candidate Alexi Ramirez that did the damage, and not one of the uber-annoying White Sox veterans. Sure, it's small consolation, but I've got to cling to something.

That brings us to today. For the 12th time in Major League Baseball history, there's a tie breaking game to be played before the playoffs begin. And for the first time ever, the Minnesota Twins are involved.


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I've heard some Twins fans bemoan the situation, thinking that the Twins should've locked up the division when they had the chance. I've heard some folks whine and grumble about the fact that the site of the game was determined by something as arbitrary as a coin-flip. And yes, I'm aware that the Twins are 2-7 at US Cellular Field in Chicago this season.

I say bollocks to all of that.

This is as exciting as it gets. If you're a Twins player, you've played 162 games to reach this moment. Now you've got one game to win. One win and you become one of the 8 playoff teams. Fail, and you can stew on it til Spring Training next February. The only "win or go home" situation that's going to be any more intense than this is Game 7 of the World Series. And that's saying something.

So let's break it down. How do we assess what's going to happen tonight?

I like to use a theory proffered by former Twins manager, and 2-time World Series champion, Tom Kelly:

"If you pitch it a little bit, and catch it a little bit, then you give your team a chance to win."

So let's use that.

"If you pitch it a little bit..."

Starting for the Twins tonight is rookie right-hander Nick Blackburn. Though at this point in the season I'm loathe to call anybody a "rookie", I can't discount the fact that a year ago at this time, Nick was preparing to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. Tonight is just a touch higher on the intensity-scale. So let's look at Nick's numbers:

Overall: 11-10, 4.14 ERA

On the road: 3-7, 5.20

At night: 7-8, 4.64

On grass: 3-6, 4.86

In an open-air ballpark: 3-6, 4.72

In the month of September: 2-2, 6.75

Versus the White Sox: 2.2, 5.67

Last Start: defeated the White Sox, 5 innings pitched, 8 hits, 2 earned runs

There's not a lot to love amongst those numbers except for his last start. When the pressure was on, Nick came through with a serviceable - if not spectacular - start. He's starting on full rest, so there should be no concern about being tired. And frankly, if you can't get energized for a game like this, you don't belong in the big leagues anyway.

His counterpart tonight for the White Sox is left-hander John Danks. Let's look at his numbers:

Overall: 11-9, 3.47

Home: 4-6, 3.96

At night: 4-6, 4.61

On grass: 9-8, 3.58

In an open-air ballpark: 9-8, 3.58

In the month of September: 1-2, 4.44

Versus the Twins: 1-1, 7.91

Last start: lost @ Cleveland, 4 innings pitched, 7 hits, 7 earned runs

Okay, I'm starting to feel more encouraged. Even though the Twins traditionally struggle with left-handers, it appears they've gotten after this guy pretty good. Like Blackburn he's struggled in the month of September. Unlike Nick, he got shelled in his last start. And Danks' numbers aren't appreciably better at home, so hopefully that will remove some of the home-field advantage from the White Sox.

"... and you catch it a little bit..."

Defense is going to play a crucial role in this game. Unfortunately, neither of these teams has especially good defensive numbers:

Minnesota Twins: in 6132 total chances, the Twins have committed 108 errors for a fielding percentage of .982 which ranks 12th out of 14 American League teams.

Chicago White Sox: in 6176 total chances, the Sox have also committed 108 errors for a fielding percentage of .983 which ranks 11th out of 14 American League teams.

Advantage? Well nobody really. Which only makes tonight's defensive performance more critical. Count up the defensive mistakes on each side. Whoever commits the most will most likely lose the game.

"... then you give your team a chance to win."

That's the bottom line. Pitching and defense give you a chance to win. But they only give you a chance.

After that it's who wants it more? Who makes the sacrifices? Who does the little things correctly? Who handles the pressure? Who comes through in the clutch? Who lays it on the line for their playoff lives?

These are the questions viewers will be asking themselves starting at 6:37pm central time (4:37 pacific - come on D'backs fans, join me!) tonight on TBS (check your local listings).

As you can probably tell, I'm a wee bit excited for tonight. And fortunately for me, WCCO radio is carrying a Wild pre-season game against the Blackhawks starting at 6:35pm, so I'll be able to focus a solid 90% of my attention on the Twins game!

So enjoy the game tonight. Experience the drama of "win or go home" baseball. And root for the Twins!

I'll be back tomorrow with my regular Wednesday column. Until then, thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. 1. You know, if you use this seriously, "Bollocks to their other games, this one matters", I'm not going to listen to any of your anti-BCS arguments ever again. Ever.

    2. This is rather un-like game 7 of the World Series...'cause in that game, you could legitimately say, "Let's Win and Go Home!"

    3. I listened to the game up to the home run, and then turned it off. I knew the final score.

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  2. Okay...

    1. The "bollocks" wasn't to say that other games didn't matter. It was dismissive of whining about the past which is at this point unchangeable.

    2. I said quite clearly that Game 7 of the World Series was more intense, i.e. different.

    3. I don't blame you, but I had to ride it out.

    ReplyDelete