September 18, 2008

You Don't Have To Go Home, But You Can't Stay Here

I'm not sure what's left to say at this point. Being swept by the Indians leaves the Twins at 8-16 since moving into first place on August 22. Despite the White Sox trying their best to gift wrap the division by going 11-13 during that same stretch, the Twins are now 2.5 games back in the AL Central with just 10 games remaining. And beginning tonight the first four of those games come against the playoff-bound Rays, in Tampa Bay.

For the past month or so people have been focused on the second-to-last series of the season, which has the Twins hosting the White Sox for three games at the Metrodome. As long as the deficit is within two games when Chicago comes to town the Twins will have a reasonable chance of at least forcing a one-game playoff, but right now even keeping things that close seems unlikely. There's still time left for an improbable comeback, but rarely has a pennant race been such little fun to watch.

What's amazing about the Twins' collapse is that they've out-scored their opponents 131-to-114 while going 8-16, which is tough to do. The lineup has produced 5.46 runs per game, which is remarkable given that the Rangers have the league's highest-scoring offense this year at 5.49 runs per game. The pitchers have a 4.27 ERA, which would rank sixth in the league overall. Yet thanks to 14 unearned runs, a whole bunch of blown leads, and some sloppy situational hitting everything has fallen apart.

All but one of the eight wins have been by at least five runs and they've scored double-digits runs in five of them, but the 8-16 stretch includes five one-run losses and eight two-run losses. In other words, 14 of the past 24 games have been decided by one or two runs, and the Twins lost 13 of them. Winning half of those games would've put them 3.5 games up in the division, and the Twins had a late lead in most of them. Even going 4-10 rather than 1-13 would've given them a half-game lead right now.

If this were a party the Twins would be the guy sitting by himself on the couch at the end of the night, nursing a beer and flipping through magazines while everyone else said their goodbyes. Chicago and the rest of the division have been kind enough to let them stick around for as long as they want, but the Twins refuse to get off the couch or go home. It's time to chug the beer and do something, because this is getting pathetic and no one is having any fun.

                W      L      GB     REMAINING SCHEDULE
White Sox 84 67 --- 1@NYY, 3@KAN, 3@MIN, 3vCLE, 1@DET
Twins 82 70 2.5 4@TAM, 3vCHW, 3vKAN

Hopefully the Twins can at least force the White Sox to play game No. 162.

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My promise to "keep going until the questions stop rolling in" at the beginning of yesterday afternoon's live chat led to the session lasting over three hours. There's a transcript available by clicking here if you weren't able to waste half your day watching me answer 300-plus questions on topics ranging from my grandpa's reading habits and dancing in public to Bert Blyleven's live-chat advice and Chuck Norris versus Telly Hughes. Plus, there was actually a lot more Twins-related talk than you'd think. Seriously.

Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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