October 6, 2009

Tigers-Twins 1-game playoff preview

Every team in baseball knows how much every game means to the season. Sometimes fans don’t recognize it until the very end of the season when only two losses separate a playoff team from a non-playoff team. Today, the Tigers and Twins have to duke it out for 163rd time this season because they finished the regular season in a dead tie at 86-76.

In the last 65 years, there have only been eight tie-breakers played. Of those eight winners, two have gone on to win the World Series, most notably the 1978 Yankees. Since this is a Yankees blog, and the winner of this game determines who the Yankees play in the first round, I believe it is fitting for me to cover it.

Today’s game will be played in Minnesota, due to the Twins winning 11 of the 18 regular season meetings. This home-field advantage is just another reason why their series in the final week of the season was so important. If the Tigers had won all four games oppose to splitting, then there would have been a tie in the regular season.

The Twins have been a pesky team all year long. They have been within around five games of the Tigers all season, and then they got hot at the end. They had a six-game winning streak in the middle of September, and won the final four games of the season in October.

The Tigers went 16-15 in September and October, and lost three of their last four games. The momentum seems to be with the Twins, but when looking at the team statistics, the matchup looks even closer.

  Hitting   Pitching
Tigers Category Twins   Tigers Category Twins
.747 OPS .773  


ERA 4.50
738 R 811   1091 SO 1044
181 HR 170   1.41 WHIP 1.38
72 SB 85   .336 OBA .331

Judging by these statistics, the Twins have a slight edge in hitting, while the Tigers have a slim advantage in pitching. It should be a tight one, but remember, this is just one game! So let’s look at the starters.

Pitching Matchup:

Tigers starter: Twins starter:
Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.04) Scott Baker (15-9, 4.36)
Porcello, a Rookie of the Year candidate, had a strong finish to the season. He threw two quality starts against the Twins in the last three weeks of the season and hasn’t allowed more than five earned runs in a start since April 29.

Baker beat the Tigers in his last start, but lost in his prior attempt. September was one of the worst months of the season for Baker, and he has been recovering all year from an awful April.

My Outlook:
The Twins have been without Justin Morneau since the middle of September, but that may have sparked MVP candidate Joe Mauer to his terrific offensive display. Mauer hit .358 in September, and that actually brought down his season average. He won the batting title and also had the highest OBP and SLG in the league.

The Tigers have been led by Miguel Cabrera all year long. He hit over .300 in five of the six months — not including October, when he hit .067 in four games. Cabrera is a steady force in the cleanup spot, and hits in front of Magglio Ordonez. So intentional passes are not the solution to solving the Tigers’ lineup. That’s for Baker to figure out today.

So who am I rooting for? I want the Tigers to win because the Yankees need to get revenge from 2006. However, the Yankees have had great success against both teams this season, so won’t be mad at all if the Twins take it.

The game is starting soon, so follow it!

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