September 2009


From Comerica Park: Twins/Tigers Game 3

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

DETROIT — Once again, the Twins are getting ready for the most important game of their season.

A loss tonight would put the Tigers on the postseason doorstep. A win pulls the Twins back within one game of first place. Two losses in the next two days eliminates the Twins entirely. Two wins, and these teams are tied.

Tigers starter Eddie Bonine might not make Twins hitters as uncomfortable in the batter’s box as they were Tuesday, facing Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander, but Bonine did open with five no-hit innings in his previous start against the White Sox. Bonine’s fastball will come in about 90-mph, and he mixes in the occasional knuckleball.

Twins starter Carl Pavano is 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five starts against the Tigers this season, including two with the Twins. It’s worth noting, however, that the Tigers did get 11 hits off him over seven innings on Sept. 19 — a 6-2 win for the Twins at the Metrodome.

In 10 starts for the Twins, Pavano is 4-3 with a 3.84 ERA. This is the biggest one yet.

Note: I knew Tuesday’s doubleheader showdown between these two teams was rare. But in today’s Twins notes, there is this nugget from the Elias Sports Bureau: It marked the first doubleheader since 1916 to come that late on the calendar (Sept. 29) pitting two teams from the same division — one in first place, the other in second, and the difference at two games or less. The Twins and Tigers put on quite a show, too.

(TWINS 82-75)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Orlando Cabrera, SS
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Jason Kubel, RF
5. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
6. Delmon Young, LF
7. Jose Morales, DH
8. Matt Tolbert, 3B
9. Nick Punto, 2B

Starting pitcher: RH Carl Pavano (13-11, 4.86 ERA)

TIGERS (84-73)

1. Curtis Granderson, CF
2. Placido Polanco, 2B
3. Clete Thomas, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Magglio Ordonez, DH
6. Carlos Guillen, LF
7. Brandon Inge, 3B
8. Alex Avila, C
9. Ramon Santiago, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Eddie Bonine (0-1, 4.60 ERA) *corrected

Comerica Park. First pitch: 6:05 p.m. TV: FSN

Postgame update: Twins still like their chances

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

DETROIT — The Twins left Comerica Park tonight exhausted but in decent spirits, considering they wound up with a 3-2, 6-5 split in this day-night doubleheader.

After facing Detroit’s hottest two pitchers the first two games — Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander — the Twins are supposed to have an easier time with Eddie Bonine and Nate Robertson, two recent additions to the Tigers’ rotation.

A lot depends on how Carl Pavano and Scott Baker pitch, of course, but if the Twins can win both games, they’ll leave Detroit in a first-place tie with the Tigers.

“If you would have told us we would have had a chance to tie, we would have taken that, so we need to come out here [Wednesday] and win,” Michael Cuddyer said.

“I think it was a good day for us,” Denard Span said. “Both games were tough games, but the way we battled back the second game versus their best pitcher [Verlander], we’ve seen their best. That’s kind of what the word was after the game. We fought him to the end.”

Lots more coverage here, here and here. Souhan wrote about the fateful decision that saved the Twins season, at least for a day. Been a long day at the ballpark. Thanks for hanging out with us. Back Wednesday with more on Game 3.

From Comerica Park, Game 2: Twins/Tigers

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

DETROIT — Well, Game 1 was one of the best ballgames I can remember. To read more about the Twins’ 3-2, 10-inning victory — everything from the failed squeeze, to Denard Span’s game-saving catch, to Joe Nathan’s latest trapeze act — click here.

Game 2 is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. (Central), and the forecast looks like it will stay dry here at Comerica Park.

The Twins can move into a tie for first place if they win. If the Tigers win, it will put big pressure on the Twins to win the final two games of the series.

Joe Mauer will catch again tonight. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Mauer popped into his office after Game 1 and said, “I got this.”

Carlos Gomez is back in the lineup, too. Remember last year when Gomez said of Justin Verlander, “He’s a good pitcher, but his head’s no good.” Well, he’s back.

Gomez was on fire after Game 1. Like Span, he made a terrific running catch, robbing Placido Polanco of a hit right after Nathan had given up his home run to Curtis Granderson.

Asked about his catch, Gomez said, “Pretty good, eh?”

Gomez had replaced Jason Kubel as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning. Kubel was the cleanup hitter, and Gomez had to bat in the 10th inning. With runners on first and second, Gardenhire had Gomez sacrifice bunt.

“I hit fourth in the lineup, and I have to bunt. Unbelievable,” Gomez said, leaning back in a chair, feigning anger for effect. “Come on, man. That’s the 4-hole. They walk Mauer and pitch to Gomez.”

La Velle has a new post up with his thoughts on Game 1.

Update: As the Detroit Free Press notes, Brian Duensing is one of four lefthanded pitchers who have held the Tigers scoreless in a start this season. The others: C.C. Sabathia, Mark Buehrle and Jarrod Washburn.

Update: If you’ve been following our Tweets (@JoeCStrib, @SouhanStrib), you saw that Carl Pavano said he’d be ready to pitch Sunday’s regular season finale on three day’s rest. As @Randball notes, the Twins might opt to have Brian Duensing start that game on regular rest, depending on how he does tonight.

But the Twins are undecided about Friday and Saturday’s games right now, as well. Friday could be Jeff Manship, Francisco Liriano or Bobby Keppel. And Saturday might be Nick Blackburn on three day’s rest. Blackburn, however, has never made a big league start on three day’s rest. “I’d be happy to do it,” Blackburn said.

Interesting to note that the Tigers have already said Monday’s rainout eliminates Rick Porcello from any of this weekend’s starts against Chicago. (They already have Verlander lined up to pitch Sunday, and they don’t want the 20-year-old returning on three day’s rest.) Porcello, however, would be ready to pitch a one-game tiebreaker against the Twins.

Update: Here are some numbers for September:

Duensing: 5 GS, 3-0, 1.74 ERA, 31 IP, 6 ER
Verlander: 5 GS, 2-2, 3.57 ERA, 35.1 IP, 14 ER

(*) Also, that was a career-high 45th save for Nathan in Game 1.

Update: The White Sox have pushed Jake Peavy’s next start from Wednesday (against Cleveland), to Friday (at Detroit).

Update: Rob Plummer, agent for Dominican prospect Miguel Angel Sano, just confirmed a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Twins will sign Sano for $3.15 million.

“We’re very interested in Miguel Sano, and we are pursuing him aggressively, but we do not have a signed deal,” Twins GM Bill Smith said.

Plummer said Sano will officially sign with the Twins on Wednesday.

“Miguel Sano’s age and identity have probably been scrutinized more than any player in the history of the Dominican Republic,” Smith said. “And we certainly won’t do anything until we have a fair assurance that he’s going to be able to play for us. But we’ve got a lot of interest in this player. He’s a tremendous offensive player. So we’re hopeful, but until we have a signed agreement, we have no agreement.”

(TWINS 82-74)

1. Denard Span, RF
2. Orlando Cabrera, SS
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Jason Kubel, DH
5. Michael Cuddyer, RF
6. Delmon Young, LF
7. Carlos Gomez, CF
8. Matt Tolbert, 3B
9. Nick Punto, 2B

Starting pitcher: LH Brian Duensing (5-1, 3.33 ERA)

TIGERS (83-73)

1. Ryan Raburn, LF
2. Placido Polanco, 2B
3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Marcus Thames, DH
6. Brandon Inge, 3B
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Gerald Laird, C
9. Adam Everett, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41 ERA)

Comerica Park. First pitch: 6:05 p.m. (Central) TV: FSN

From Comerica Park, Game 1: Twins/Tigers

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

DETROIT — As expected, the Twins are going with the same posted lineup for Game 1.

The sun has been peeking through the clouds and then disappearing again. Here’s hoping this doesn’t have to be an all-day weather posting, but we’ll keep you updated.

Note: for more updates, you can follow us on Twitter: @JoeCStrib, @SouhanStrib.

Update: The Tigers had Magglio Ordonez in right field for this game, when the lineup was posted Monday, but now Clete Thomas is in right field. This was not explained to reporters this morning, but logic says Ordonez probably will play just one game today, and it’s better having his righthanded bat against Brian Duensing tonight, with lefthanded hitting Clete Thomas facing Nick Blackburn in Game 1.

Also, look for Carlos Guillen to sit in Game 2. A switch-hitter who batted exclusively lefthanded for two months because of a sore shoulder, Guillen has been swinging righthanded of late, but he hasn’t started against a lefthander. Against lefties, the Tigers have been moving Curtis Granderson to the No. 7 spot, with Ryan Raburn batting leadoff.

Another key question for the Tigers: Will Gerald Laird catch both games?

Update: They are taking the tarp off the field. It looks like they’ll start Game 1 on time. The sun is peeking through again, too.

TWINS (81-74)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Orlando Cabrera, SS
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Jason Kubel, RF
5. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
6. Delmon Young, LF
7. Jose Morales, DH
8. Matt Tolbert, 3B
9. Nick Punto, 2B

Starting pitcher: RH Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18 ERA)

TIGERS (83-72)

1. Curtis Granderson, CF
2. Placido Polanco, 2B
3. Clete Thomas, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Aubrey Huff, DH
6. Carlos Guillen, LF
7. Gerald Laird, C
8. Brandon Inge, 3B
9. Ramon Santiago, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14 ERA)

Comerica Park. First pitch: 11:05 a.m. (Central). TV: FSN

Tuesday morning update from Detroit

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

DETROIT — Michiganders joke about the unpredictability of their weather, especially in spring and fall. Minnesotans can surely relate. So who knows how much baseball the Twins and Tigers will play today.

As I write this, it’s cloudy outside, and 52 degrees, according to Weather.com.

The hour-by-hour forecast says it will be partly cloudy at 57 degrees at Noon (Eastern), when the Twins and Tigers are scheduled to begin Game 1 of today’s doubleheader. But from 3 p.m., onward, that forecast if calling for a 30 percent chance of rain.

So we shall see. The suspense only builds. By the end of today, the Twins and Tigers could be tied in the standings, or the Tigers could have a four-game lead and a magic number of two with five games remaining.

I’ll have updates later this morning from Comerica Park, though I assume both starting lineups will be the same as listed on Monday.

Meanwhile, check out Souhan’s column on a surprise visitor to Manager Ron Gardenhire’s office on Monday. For a look at how Monday’s rainout will affect Joe Mauer and the Twins’ pitching plans, click here, and in this piece, Orlando Cabrera talks about this year’s defensive struggles.