The Playoffs Will Wait Another Day For Some (Literally)
The regular regular season is over. It's now time for the third straight year of a one-game tiebreaker to determine the eighth and final participant in the postseason.
After 162 games, the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins are tied for first place in the American League Central with 86 wins and 76 losses. The teams head to the Metrodome for a title tilt on Tuesday. If the contest is like the tiebreakers in 2007 (Colorado Rockies edged the San Diego Padres, 9-8) and 2008 (Chicago White Sox shut out the Twins, 1-0), it means the game will be decided by one run. Heck, even the previous tiebreaker in 1999 (New York Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds, 5-4) was decided by one run.
Hard to believe but the Tigers are looking to win their first division title since 1987. When Detroit lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, the Jim Leyland-led club finished second to the Twins in the AL Central and advanced into the postseason as the wild card team. Minnesota, on the other hand, has won four division titles this decade but lost the tiebreaker last year and has gone 3-13 in its last four playoff series. Of course, Joe Mauer, who led the AL in AVG (.364), OBP (.442), and SLG (.586) this season, didn't perform in those postseason series in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
We're only talking about one game but Mauer could be the difference maker for the Twins this year. However, he struggled against Detroit's scheduled starter Rick Porcello during the season, going 1-for-9 with no extra base hits and only one walk. Tomorrow's start will undoubtedly be the biggest game of the 20-year-old Porcello's life. Look for the first round draft pick in 2007 to try and pound the lower half of the strike zone with his two-seam fastball in the hopes of keeping the ball on the ground as he has done so well throughout his rookie season, leading the AL in GB% at 54.4%.
Scott Baker will head to the mound for the Twins. He is an extreme flyball pitcher, ranking second (behind only Jered Weaver) in the AL in FB% at 46.6%. The righthander succeeds by throwing strikes (7th lowest BB/9 in the AL) and getting more than his fair share of punch outs (12th at 7.42 K/9). Porcello, on the other hand, had the second-lowest K/9 rate (4.42) in the league. The matchup should be an interesting contrast in styles, as colleague Dave Allen describes in the article below.
Meanwhile, not only are the Yankees in the dark about which team they will be facing in the ALDS, but the dates of the two series are yet to be determined. New York, by virtue of having the best record in the league, has the option of picking between a seven-day and eight-day schedule (Wed-Fri-Sun-Mon-Wed or Thu-Fri-Sun-Mon-Wed). The decision is due one hour after NY's playoff opponent has been determined. The Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox will default to the schedule that the Yankees don't pick.
It says here that the Yankees will opt for the longer format, which will force the winner of the Tigers and Twins tiebreaker to play back-to-back games in different cities while the home team rests up. That means the Angels and Red Sox will likely play Thursday and Friday in Anaheim, Sunday and Monday (if needed) in Boston, and Wednesday (if needed) back in Anaheim.
If the truth be known, the suspense seems a little bit silly.