White Sox and Twins Stumble Into Important Head-To-Head Series

Steve JankowskiAnalyst ISeptember 22, 2008

For the last few weeks, the White Sox and Twins have battled for the top spot in the AL Central, albeit not always successfully.  

The two top contenders for the Central division title have not been playing their best of late.  Minnesota is 4-6 in their last 10 games, but the White Sox have not expanded on their 2.5 game lead because they are 5-5 in the same span.  

The main culprit for both teams is the bullpen.

Early on this season, Chicago's bullpen was among the best in the majors, with Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink getting the ball to Bobby Jenks in the 9th, just like GM Ken Williams drew it up.

But Jenks' injury forced manager Ozzie Guillen to reshuffle his bullpen, and the unit has not been the same ever since. 

Dotel has struggled mightily, and Linebrink has missed significant time.  Only Matt Thornton and Jenks have been consistently productive out of the bullpen.

The White Sox have also struggled in situational hitting the last few weeks, and that has prevented them from getting early leads, or extending existing leads.

Chicago's saving grace is that Minnesota's usually steady bullpen has had its troubles of late.

Closer Joe Nathan has blown several saves in the stretch run, preventing the Twins from gaining ground on, and possibly passing, the White Sox in the standings.

Both teams will enter the three game set in the Metrodome feeling better about themselves after wins on Sunday.  Minnesota salvaged the final game in Tampa Bay with a solid 4-1 win, and Chicago shut out Kansas City 3-0.

With their magic number at 5, the White Sox could clinch the division title with a sweep of the Twins.  That appears unrealistic, however, given that the White Sox are 1-6 in the Dome this season.

The White Sox will be happy to win two out of three and reduce their magic number to one before heading home for the final series of the season against the Cleveland Indians.

A Twins sweep would put them a half-game ahead of Chicago, but Chicago has one more game left to play than Minnesota does.  If the teams are separated by a half-game after Sunday's play, the Detroit Tigers will have to come to Chicago to make up a game rained out a week and a half ago.

If the White Sox and Twins are even after that, the Twins will come to Chicago for a tie-breaker game after a coin-flip that Chicago won.

The White Sox hope to clinch long before that.