September 30, 2008

Game No. 163

Been down so long, getting up didn't cross my mind
I knew there was a better way of life and I was just trying to find
You don't know what you'll do until you're put under pressure
Across 110th Street is a helluva a tester

- Bobby Womack, "Across 110th Street"

After six months and 162 games, the Twins' season now comes down to a one-game playoff tonight against the White Sox, in Chicago. Winner takes the AL Central crown and begins a first-round series Thursday against the Rays. Loser takes their 88 wins and starts waiting 'til next year. For a moment yesterday it looked like the Tigers might knock off the White Sox, but after a three-hour rain delay Alexei Ramirez made sure that the Twins will have to do their own dirty work.

My promise to live chat throughout the entire rain-delayed game led to a seven-hour marathon session that has me pretty much talked out, but there isn't a whole lot to say about a one-game playoff anyway. Both teams' shallow, mediocre bullpens figure to be big factors, because John Danks has a 6.88 ERA in seven starts against the Twins and Nick Blackburn has a 5.67 ERA in five starts against the White Sox. Here are their overall numbers this season:

                   W    L    ERA   xFIP   GS    IP    SO   BB   HR   OAVG
Nick Blackburn 11 10 4.14 4.55 32 187 93 36 22 .295
John Danks 11 9 3.47 3.94 32 187 155 54 15 .251

The White Sox have a tough southpaw on the mound and are 53-28 at home while the Twins are 35-46 on the road and have the league's fourth-worst OPS against lefties. Beyond that, Chicago's ballpark significantly boosts homers and the wind will reportedly be blowing out at 30 miles per hour. Given that the White Sox hit the league's most homers with 234 and the Twins hit the league's fewest homers at 111, conditions also clearly favor Chicago.

Fortunately just about anything can happen and just about anyone can be Bucky Dent for one day, and even with the deck stacked against them and a 14-20 record to finish the year the Twins are nine good innings from their fifth division title in seven seasons. I'd sure love to spend tomorrow writing an ALDS preview.

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

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