The Twins and Sox finally got their respective acts together Sunday and beat two of the peskiest teams in recent memory.
With nothing to play for but pride, the Indians and Royals tormented the exhausted Sox and Twins in the first two games of three game series, but they couldn't sustain it into game three.
Scott Baker gave the Twins the shut-down start they needed. He allowed just five baserunners in his seven innings, while striking out nine Royals. The bats didn't produce much of note beyond Mauer's two run triple, but they didn't need to. Baker never let the Royals into the game and Jose Mijares, the apparent set-up man for Joe Nathan, and the closer didn't falter. All in all, Twins pitchers struck out twice as many Royals as they allowed to reach base.
Down on the South side, Mark Buehrle was equally effective. He allowed just one run in his seven innings even though he gave up 10 baserunners. Buehrle escaped damage by inducing four double plays and eliminating any threats the Indians tried to surmount. Thornton and Jenks slammed the door shut on Cleveland's season, and made Freddy Garcia the most important pitcher in baseball at this moment.
While the Twins regular season is done, all 162 games of it, the White Sox missed one. The Detroit Tigers had consecutive games rained out at US Cellular Field and were only able to make one of them up, due to a lack of common off days betwen the two teams. Tomorrow, the White Sox will finish their regular season by pitting their best pitcher, Gavin Floyd, against the man he was traded for, namely, Freddy Garcia.
Floyd is coming off back to back subpar outings, but he is still the man the Sox want on the hill. If he can hit his spots and contain the emotions which willbe hightened due to the magnitude of this game, Floyd will make life difficult on the potent Tigers offense. Realistically, however, the weight of the game lies on Garcia.
This will be just the third start of the season for the 32 year old vet, who missed much of the year with an arm injury, and easily the biggest he's been in since he defeated the streaking Minnesota Twins exactly two years from Monday. Garcia will need to shut down the White Sox offense, especially Paul Konerko, who has homered in his last three games.
The Sox aren't the only team with something on the line tomorrow, the Tigers may be out of the playoffs, but an extra loss seals their place at the bottom of the AL Central. If they win, they will tie the Royals for fourth. It may not seem like much, but it will likely be enough to keep players like Miguel Cabrera from just going through the motions while checking their voicemail between innings to see if their agent got a tee time for tomorrow morning or afternoon.
The longer Garcia can keep his old team off the board, the better the chance his teammates will get behind him and try to win some pride. If the Tigers can shock the Sox at home, the Twins will take the division title going away, like they did in 2006. However, if the Sox can sustain the momentum they produced today, the 2008 season will head into extra innings.