Twins: A final weekend, a final push
After a heated, contentious, and season-saving 8-3 win at Detroit yesterday, the Twins return home with enough breath left in their 2009 season to keep the Metrodome inflated for at least three more games. Thursday's nooner victory gave the Twins a split for the four-game series, keeping the Tigers magic number for the Central at 2 games, meaning any combination of Twins losses & Tiger wins that reaches said number will ascend Detroit to the postseason.
The Twins hope to dull that magic with a sweep of the Royals in what will be the final regular season ballgames at the Dome. Meanwhile, the Tigers aim to make memories of 2008's last-place finish wholly vanish with a three-game set at home against the White Sox, versus whom they're 8-7 on the year. Chicago has been fielding a really soupy lineup in the season's final week; however they offer Twin hopes in both manager Ozzie Guillen's adoration of our club, and also a trio of pitchers -- Jake Peavy, Freddy Garcia, and John Danks -- that sport a collective lifetime record of 18-9 with a 3.73 ERA against the Tigers.
The heat of the weekend is stoked with irony via the Garcia start. Recall last season's makeup game #162 for the Chi Sox? They needed a win to tie the Twins and play onward to our #163. That ballgame was against Detroit who offered Garcia as their starter. Freddy was respectable in that 8-2 Detroit loss, albeit far from dominant, surrendering 2 runs in 5 innings of work. Perhaps he can do the Bread Basket a bigger favor this weekend.
Scoreboard ogling will no doubt be in play throughout the next three days as the Twins have come off their finest month to give us a chance to sweat out the final weekend of play and guarantee a worthy sendoff of a stadium that housed two World Champions.
Let's make that 21 into 24 and hope for a little White Sox pluck to boot. Here's a look at Twins vs. Royals:
Lenny DiNardo (0-2, 7.52 ERA) vs. Jeff Manship (0-1, 5.81)
The Twins seemingly couldn't be more fortunate in this series opener than to face DiNardo, against whom they tallied 8 hits, 3 walks, and 7 runs (3 earned) just seven days ago. This will be Lenny's second career Dome start; his first was back on 7/13/07 when, as an Oakland A, he scored a C+, giving up 2 runs in 5 innings. Four active Twins hit this guy at a .429 clip or better.
Zach Greinke (16-8, 2.06) vs. Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.08)
As per our side, Blackburn has proven himself pretty damn cool in situations such as these. For a fella with a 22-24 lifetime mark, he seems to have some Big Game nerves. Furthermore, he's tossed three straight Quality Starts and as coming off of Wednesday's 7 inning, 1 run gem.
Luke Hochevar (7-12, 6.24) vs. Brian Duensing (5-2, 3.69)
Luke's force has been dismal in '09's second half, as well-evidenced by his 2-9 mark since the break. Still, he's been solid against Minnesota this year, presenting a 1-0 mark with a 1.93 ERA in two previous starts. Eight active Twins hit him .222 or worse. This will be Hochevar's first (and last) Dome appearance.
Hell -- if the Twins get this far, whomever tosses this game #162 will either be a Minnesota folk hero, or an answer to a trivia question that we'll all want to forget.