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Get ready for Tuesday night's one game showdown to decide the American League Central. "Every game counts" has been spoken by nearly all coaches ranging from amateur to professional sports. Nothing could be more true. For those fans who shrug their shoulders at an opening day defeat... this is why they "all" count. Detroit and Minnesota are tied with identical records 86-76. Tuesday's game decides who advances to play the New York Yankees in AL Division Series Playoffs.
The Tigers had been sitting alone in first place since May 16. On September 6, their lead was a season high 7 games over Minnesota. This is when Detroit began fading and Minnesota got hot. The Twins won 18 of 26 while Detroit stumbled losing 15 of 26. In head to head games, Minnesota holds the season advantage 11-7.
It all goes out the window tomorrow. Or, does it? Detroit sends rookie starting pitcher Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.04) to the hill to face vet Scott Baker (15-9, 4.34). Baker has not fared well against the Tigers in '09 (1-1, 6.75 in 4 starts). Porcello was 1-2 with a respectable 3.09 vs Minnesota. These two are hittable. Fighting for every inch, every pitch and every base will be crucial to both clubs.
One game playoffs do not occur frequently.... well, usually not until recent history. 2009 marks the third consecutive year of one game playoffs. Minnesota played one last year too. They lost 1-0 to Chicago White Sox. In 2007, Colorado capped a remarkable September by beating San Diego 9-8.
Good luck handicapping this game. Neither pitcher strikes fear into any lineup. On the surface, there should be plenty of runs. Detroit's pitching has not been good of late. Minnesota's has been scrappy enough and getting the job done. Manufacturing runs and playing high level defense will decide this game. Tigers hitters have been inconsistent most of the year and simply un-clutch in September. Minnesota seems to get timely hits most often when games are on the line.
In games like these much of the focus surrounds star players like Miguel Cabrera or Joe Mauer. However, as history has proven time and time again... it's often the little guys making history. Remember Bucky Dent's game winning homer back in '78 which demoralized Boston?
I've run a few simulation games this morning. These teams split 10 games. Most were high scoring as all pitchers except Joe Nathan were lit up. For Minnesota fans a win tomorrow will be a perfect ending for the Metrodome's final regular season game. Twins fans will be loud as ever under the bubble.
Minnesota is the hot team heading into this game. Detroit barely survived on the final days of 2009. Advantage Twins. I'm expecting a close contest. Perhaps a few lead changes. Unless hitters are tight these two starting pitchers stand a good chance of getting rocked early. Any defensive lapses will be magnified. My bias has me rooting for Detroit even though I'm predicting a Twins 8-5 victory.