Single Elimination

Steve O Speak

Talk about October drama, after 162 games of baseball the AL Central is all tied up and down to one final play-in game between the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers to determine the winner. The loser goes home and the winner gets to play the New York Yankees in the Division Series. This is the second straight year the Twins have had to play a 163rd game, last year they lost in Chicago, which created a rule change. In the past in situations like this home field for these one game playoffs were determined by a coin flip, now head to head record is taken into account.

This game has a lot of significance to Minnesota and their fans. Not only are they trying to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss, and return to the postseason, but this is the Twins last year in the Metrodome, their home since 1982. If they win tonight they can extend the life of baseball in the dome a little while longer. Not only do the Twins have home field advantage, but the fans tonight will be extra excited to send the Metrodome out in style (the Vikings winning last night couldn’t have hurt either). The Twins hope the magic of their fans can propel them to a third World Series crown in the dome.

For the Tigers combating this date with destiny is a 20-year old rookie pitcher Rick Porcello. Two years ago at this time Porcello was an 18-year old kid, who had just been rewarded a $7 million dollar signing bonus out of high school, and was preparing for his first professional season. Now he is pitching the biggest game of the year (and by far his career) for the Tigers. High school pitchers NEVER jump to the majors this quickly, usually it takes them 3-5 years of minor league seasoning to be ready for the show. Porcello needed just one, and at High-A ball no less, which is a major step down from Major League competition. Regardless of tonight’s outcome Porcello is a great pitcher, who has a brilliant future. For the Tigers sake, they hope he has at least one more great game in his rookie year, otherwise 2009 will be the year the Tigers collapsed.

The Central race has been a battle all season and for most of the year it was a three horse race, with the Chicago White Sox involved as well. In September the Tigers began to separate themselves, and on September 6th they held a 7-game lead. The Tigers had even more control, when with four games to go, and Detroit’s magic number at 2, the Tigers played host to the Twins. If Detroit won that game last week, it would have given them the the Central Division. Even with that loss the Tigers needed to take just 2 out of 3 from the White Sox at home, and were only able to squeak by with a victory in Sunday’s game. Not to take anything away from Minnesota, but if they end up playing the Yankees, it won’t be a case of them winning the Central, as much as it is the Tigers losing it.

I think the Tigers can win this game, and I do have faith in the rookie to get the job done, but boy do they have to overcome a lot tonight. The Twins have the momentum and the home field, in the end I think that will be enough to extend the Twins season a little while longer (Joe Mauer doesn’t hurt either). Look for the Twins to win a close one late 6-5 and advance to play the Yankees in the first round.

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