September 22, 2008

Setting The Stage

I've seen Minnesota clinch in our ballpark once. I hope we can clinch in theirs. I like the way they play, but we've got to make sure we're mean and show them we're going to kick their ass as soon as we walk in. Make sure you grab a big net and get those piranhas and put some poison in the water to make their teeth fall out.

- Ozzie Guillen

By splitting the four-game set in Tampa Bay the Twins are 2.5 games back in the division heading into the three-game series with the White Sox that begins Tuesday. Once that series is over the Twins have three games left against the Royals, while the White Sox have three games left against the Indians and one makeup game remaining against the Tigers. In other words, to have a realistic shot at the playoffs the Twins need to either win two out of three games from the White Sox or sweep the series.

A sweep gives the Twins a half-game lead in the division and makes them clear favorites to win the AL Central, because finishing up with the Royals is easier than facing the Indians and Tigers. Of course, even after winning yesterday the Twins are just 10-18 over the past month, so talking about a potential sweep probably goes beyond wishful thinking. Fortunately, taking two of three games versus Chicago would still leave the Twins with a decent shot at the playoffs.

By winning two out of three games against the White Sox the Twins would be 1.5 games back heading into the season's final weekend. If they then sweep the Royals and the Indians sweep the White Sox, the Twins win the division. If they instead sweep the Royals and the Indians take two out of three from the White Sox, then the Tigers-White Sox makeup game is huge. If the Tigers win, the Twins take the division. If the White Sox win, there's a one-game playoff.

If the Twins take two out of three from both the White Sox and Royals, they win the division outright if the White Sox lose their final four games and there's a one-game playoff if the White Sox lose three of their final four games. All of that is overly complicated and there are still a ton of different scenarios despite a limited number of remaining games, but for any of it to matter the Twins first need to win at least two out of three games versus the White Sox, at the Metrodome.

TUESDAY MATCHUP        W      L      ERA     xFIP
Javier Vazquez 12 14 4.32 3.93
Scott Baker 9 4 3.69 4.30

Mark Buehrle 14 11 3.87 4.11
Nick Blackburn 10 10 4.15 4.52

Gavin Floyd 16 8 3.84 4.68
Kevin Slowey 12 11 3.85 4.07

Both teams have struggled recently, although over the last 30 games the White Sox are 15-15 while the Twins are just 12-18. However, the Twins are 49-26 (.653) at home this year while the White Sox are just 35-43 (.448) on the road. Thanks to the absence of a dominant or horrible starter in the bunch, the three pitching matchups are all pretty even. As Justin Morneau put it: "This is the chance we wanted. Anything can happen. Now it's up to us. It's going to be a lot of fun, especially if we win all three."

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

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