And Friday, at least, didn't disappoint as far as quality baseball. Liriano was excellent for the Twins in his 8 innings of work, but the Twins couldn't get the job done offensively, the Tigers won it in 10 with a hit from Craig Monroe.
On Saturday, things went even worse for the Twins. Radke got into trouble early and was only able to go 3 innings, while the Twins didn't have quite enough offense in an 8-6 loss.
Sunday, it was looking like a lot more of the same, as the Tigers were in complete control through 7 innings and Jeremy Bonderman was on cruise control. But the baseball gods were smiling on the Twins in the 8th, as they scored 6 runs while basically hitting one ball really well (and that was with 2 outs and the Twins already having scored 4 runs). It was an inning unlike any I have ever seen.
Tigers fans may be over that game, but it was a really big game for the Twins, especially considering how the series had gone up to that point. They were in the process of undoing all the good they had done by sweeping the White Sox earlier in the week, and all of a sudden they make a comeback, and the Orioles come back to beat the Sox. Sure, bad news came when it was found out that the Yankees, the other big WC contender, got Bobby Abreu for basically one decent prospect, but as of now the Twins stand 1.5 behind the Yankees and 1 game behind the White Sox.
So at the end of the weekend, some things are clear:
- The Tigers are still the cream of the crop. Sure, the Twins have been the hottest team for a while, but the Tigers record is obviously no fluke. They're balanced offensively and they have the pitching. At the break I picked them to win the Wildcard and the Sox to take the division, but well, I was wrong. Tigers will win the Central.
- Right now, Francisco Liriano is the best pitcher in the League. I think the series showed that at this point, not even Johan is in his class. Liriano's an absolute joy to watch out there on his mound - he's got a great fastball, dominating slider, and developing changeup - and he's absolutely unflappable out there on the mound.
- With the Yanks pickup of Abreu and Lidle, I'm less optimisitic about the Twins chances to make the playoffs. Sure, they have the pitching, but that Yankee lineup is just unbelievable. Whenever they get Matsui back, it should be something to watch.
See you in a week in Detroit.