After nearly six months of play, the grind that is the Major League Baseball schedule has reached the final week.
The Tigers can wrap up their first division title since 1987 by taking three of four. The only way the Twins can leave Detroit with a division lead is to win all four.
The City of Detroit seems to have remained calm in the midst of a pennant race due to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this baseball team. That being said, Comerica Park should provide an electric atmosphere for an exciting week of baseball.
The first job at hand is to at least split the four games with the Twins. Here is a look ahead:
Monday, Sept. 28, 7:05 pm
Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18) vs. Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14)
Nick Blackburn has just one road win since May 31, picking it up in his last outing in Chicago. Blackburn's success comes from his pinpoint control; he's walked just two batters in his last five starts.
Clete Thomas is a perfect 3-for-3 against Blackburn this year, and Miguel Cabrera has also collected three hits off of the right hander.
Rick Porcello will be sad not to see the Cleveland Indians this year. In his last start, Porcello completed a perfect 3-0 season against the Tribe with a 1.80 ERA in four starts.
Despite a 1-2 record against the Twins this year, Porcello has held his own with a 3.71 ERA while striking out seven batters.
Jason Kubel is a ridiculous 7-for-8 off of Porcello this year. Delmon Young and Denard Span are the only other Twins with more than one hit against Rick.
Tuesday, Sept. 29, 7:05 pm
Brian Duensing (5-1, 3.33) vs. Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41)
Brian Duensing has picked up the win in his last three starts and his last five decisions overall. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start and has frustrated Tigers hitters to the tune of a 0.61 ERA in 14.67 innings.
The Tigers may be able to pick up the offense as their familiarity with Duensing increases, but fans should expect a pitcher's duel in this game.
The Tigers will send the Major's strikeout leader to the hill opposite Duensing.
While Zack Greinke may have the AL Cy Young locked up, Verlander is still pitching for the postseason. Verlander has been able to show up big when the Tigers need him most, and this start certainly qualifies.
Verlander has not beaten the Twins this year and his ERA and WHIP against them shows as much. Orlando Cabrera, Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer, Denard Span, and Delmon Young each have at least three hits against Verlander in 2009.
Mauer has been able to tag Verlander for an early home run twice this season.
Wednesday, Sept. 30, 7:05 pm
Carl Pavano (13-11, 4.86) vs. Eddie Bonine (0-1, 4.60)
Carl Pavano escaped his last start against Detroit with a no decision after a fly ball was lost in the Metrodome roof to propel the Twins to a five-run eighth inning. The Tigers were finally able to put men on base against Pavano, although they failed to capitalize on many of those scoring chances.
For the season, Pavano is 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA against the Tigers. Detroit hitters will have to take advantage of every opportunity they get in order to break that kind of dominance.
Once again, Eddie Bonine will be asked to eat up some innings and keep the Tigers in the game. Bonine was solid in his last start in Chicago in which he allowed just a two-run homer to Gordon Beckham.
Unfortunately the offense didn't hold up their end of the bargain in the 2-0 loss.
Bonine has not faced the Twins this year. Only time will tell if unfamiliarity can breed success in what will be the team's first chance to clinch the division if they win games one and two.
Thursday, Oct. 1, 1:05 pm
Scott Baker (14-9, 4.48) vs. Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56)
The Tigers were able to get to Scott Baker and pick up their only win during their last trip to Minnesota. He has a 9.00 ERA in 15 innings against the Tigers this season.
Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Placido Polanco, and Ramon Santiago each have three hits against Baker. Each everyday player that has faced Baker has at least one hit.
Baker allowed two home runs to Kansas City in his last start but was bailed out by 11 runs from his offense.
Control was an issue for Nate Robertson in his last start against the White Sox. In that start he threw as many balls as strikes and gave up five runs in three-and-a-third innings.
Robertson beat the Twins in the start before that and will be looking for a repeat performance. Robertson is no stranger to pitching in big games, so that experience should serve him well.
Around the AL Central
Tigers: MIN 9/28-10/1, CWS 10/2-10/4
Twins: at DET 9/28-10/1, KAN 10/2-10/4
White Sox: at CLE 9/28-9/30, at DET 10/2-10/4
Indians: CWS 9/28-9/30, at BOS 10/1-10/4
Royals: at CWS 9/18-9/20, at MIN 10/2-10/4
The Tigers' magic number is six. This is the total number of Tigers wins and Twins losses needed for the Tigers to secure their first division championship since 1987.
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