Sure, it would have been nice if the Twins could have taken care of business at home against the Royals over the weekend and locked up a playoff spot. But by dropping a pair of games while the Indians took two of three at U.S. Cellular, the Twins remained a half-game ahead of the White Sox and set up some serious late-season drama.
Today the Sox will play a makeup game against the Tigers in Chicago. If they lose, the Twins will capture their fifth AL Central title of in seven years. A win would force a one-game playoff between the Twins and White Sox in Chicago to decide which team will move on to face the Rays in the ALDS.
There are a number of ways to put a negative spin on the current situation. With the Indians helping out in Chicago, all the Twins needed to do to seal up a playoff spot was win two games from the lowly Royals at home. Now they have to count on the Tigers to beat the Sox in a game that is only meaningful to one team. And if that doesn't happen, the Twins will be forced to go into Chicago -- where they are 2-7 this year -- and throw Nick Blackburn in a decisive play-in game. It'd be tough to like the Twins' odds in such a match-up. And if they do find their way into postseason play, the Twins would be a supreme underdog against any opponent they face, having won only 88 games and sputtered here in the final month of season (with the very notable exception of that series against the White Sox).
But, you know what? I can't help but love the way things are playing out. Following the game between the White Sox and Tigers today is going to be extremely exciting, and if things don't work out we'll have a whopper of a game on our hands for tomorrow night. And while the Twins would certainly be the underdog in a first-round series against the Rays, I'd take the a three-man rotation of Baker/Liriano/Slowey (if healthy) against Tampa Bay or any other playoff opponent. And we can't forget that the Twins are the third-highest scoring team in the American League. And that bullpen? It's been downright solid over the past week or so.
I'll be cheering wholeheartedly for the Tigers today, but the game won't be nearly as nerve-racking as it would be if the Twins were a half-game behind the Sox and facing elimination. If Detroit can step up and play spoiler and push the South-Siders out of the picture, great. If not, the Twins will have their chance on Tuesday.