The Twins pulled off an exhilarating win in the first half of yesterday's doubleheader and nearly managed an improbable comeback after falling behind 5-0 in the nightcap, but ended up falling just short in the latter game and now find themselves two games behind the Tigers, just as they were when they began playing yesterday.
That's not all bad. A sweep in yesterday's doubleheader would have been great, but the Twins still did what they needed to do by getting one win on the day. Now the real work lies ahead. They need victories tonight and tomorrow afternoon to pull even with the Tigers before coming home for a final series against the Royals at the Metrodome.
The pitching match-ups work out favorably for the Twins in these next two games. They have arguably their two best starters going in Carl Pavano and Scott Baker, while the Tigers will counter with their two worst starters in Eddie Bonine and Nate Robertson. All things considered, the Twins are in relatively good shape for a team that sits two full games out of first place with only five left to play. If they can even things up against the Tigers by the end of this series, you'd have to like their chances to finish the season in at least a tie for first place, particularly in light of the news that Jake Peavy has had his next start pushed back to Friday, the first game of Chicago's final series with the Tigers.
So now it's up to Pavano and Baker to suppress the Tigers lineup for two games, and for the Twins' hitters to take care of business against a pair of very beatable starters.
Yesterday's games were both closely contested and had the feel of postseason baseball, and the intensity surrounding those contests distracted somewhat from a piece of off-the-field news that is actually quite significant: the Twins on the verge of signing Dominican prospect Miguel Angel Sano. The Twins have been connected with Sano frequently over the past several months but have never publicly been painted as leading candidates to sign him, so the news comes as a shock to many who have followed the situation (and, apparently, by the Pirates, who have long been viewed as the front-runners to end up with him).
Inking Sano is a big deal. A shortstop by trade who will likely transition to third base or the outfield once he joins the pro ranks, he is widely viewed as the top Latin American prospect and boasts massive offensive upside. The Twins reportedly will sign him for a $3.15 million bonus, which ranks as the highest given to any international player this season and the second-highest bonus ever given to a Dominican prospect (behind only Michael Ynoa, who received $4.25 million from the A's last year). It's also the highest signing bonus the Twins have ever handed to any prospect not named Joe Mauer. Given that they haven't historically been big players on the international market, this aggressive move represents a very encouraging trend when combined with the numerous other big-money international signings the Twins have already made this year.
There is risk involved with this move. The main reason many other teams backed off on Sano is because there is some uncertainly about his actual age. He claims to be 16, but his mature physique has caused some to question whether or not that is true, and tests to confirm his age have come back inconclusive. Even if Sano is 16, handing a $3.15 million contract to a kid of that age whose value as a prospect is based so much on projectability can be a perilous venture.
With that being said, the Twins have been on Sano for some time and are always pretty protective with their funds, so one has to believe they've done their homework and are confident in the legitimacy of Sano's age and ability. If he does end up signing, he will instantly become one of the organization's most promising prospects.
The signing of Sano has the Twins' long-term future looking a whole lot brighter. We'll know more about how their short-term future looks after tonight's game. Let's get 'er done, Pavano.