For the second time in as many years, 162 games aren't enough to determine the best team in the AL Central. If that isn't a testament to how evenly-matched the majority of the division is, I don't what would be.
Game 163 will be played at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon on TBS. (Some of our clever readers have coined TBS as the "Tie-Breaker Station," or "Tigers Bawl Softly" on the Twins-Target/136707633067">Facebook group. Be sure to join the group and jump in on the conversation!)
Rick Porcello will take the mound for the opposition. Although just 20 years of age, Porcello is a top candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year award. He'll likely receive several first-place votes simply because of his 14-9 record.
Many may think that a 20-year old thrust into a pennant race isn't ideal, but 27-year old Scott Baker is no savvy veteran, either.
As their difference in age attests to, however, Porcello and Baker are almost completely different pitchers. Both throw a large percentage of fastballs, but Porcello will induce many groundballs thanks to his sinking fastball, while Baker leaves many of his fastballs up in the zone.
Look for Detroit to play as many athletic infielders as possible, while Minnesota will almost assuredly have the fleet-footed Carlos Gomez roaming center field.
Porcello pitches to contact more than his opponent, which gives a higher strikeout rate for Baker. Because he allows fewer groundballs than other Twins' starters, Minnesota may be able to slide the offensively capable (relatively speaking) Brendan Harris into the infield without a noticeable drop in defensive performance.
The venue may prove to be the difference in this game, as the Metrodome is notorious for being an extremely hostile environment. Over 50,000 fans waving Homer Hankies and screaming at the top of their lungs in a closed building will irk even veteran pitchers.
Porcello, who claims a 6.50 ERA and has surrendered a triple-slash line of .349/.391/.558 in just 10 innings at the Metrodome, could falter.
If he does, though, don't expect the Twins to walk away with an easy win. Remember, this is an elimination game, and everything possible will be done to win. If that means yanking Porcello in the second inning because he has loaded the bases, Jim Leyland will do just that.
Don't be at all shocked to see seven or more pitchers used by each team in Tuesday's contest.
As someone once said, "If a team needs to win, they're probably not that good in the first place." While that may be true, there will be two not-so-good teams going head-to-head on Tuesday night. The winner will get to play more baseball; the loser will not.
For now, though, the rest of the baseball world will turn their collective attention to the Metrodome on Tuesday night as they await the final member of the "Playoff Class of '09."
Eight teams play postseason baseball in October, and while it would be foolish to consider them as the eight best in all of baseball, it is an honor to advance where 22 other teams aren't allowed.
Whichever team pulls out the victory on Tuesday will be thrust into a five-game series with the New York Yankees. Although neither the Twins nor Tigers would be considered favorites, anything can happen in October baseball, as has been evidenced by an incredible 16-4 run by the Twins.
Here's hoping Tuesday's game in the Metrodome won't be the last.
Originally posted by me at TwinsTarget.com.