"If you look back at it (the season), it was a heck of a performance by a very young baseball team." - Twins Manager Ron GardenhireAs many probably feel, last night's loss is going to be the hardest to swallow. After 162 games, the Twins were forced into a 163rd game to determine the winner of the American League Central. But after such a promising season, the White Sox got the best of them.
Nick Blackburn was outstanding throughout the game. He allowed only 1 run which came from a Jim Thome home run in the 7th inning, which ultimately won the game for the White Sox. Blackburn kept the ball on the ground, inducing 10 ground ball outs opposed to just 6 fly ball outs. It was definitely his best performance of the season (given the circumstances). However, he took the loss hard which is very common in veteran pitchers, however he is just a rookie.
"I think tonight kind of sums up the whole season for me," Blackburn said. "I make one mistake and it ends up out of the park. It's kind of been the way the year has gone for me."He definitely showed that he has the guts to pitch in a big game, and I think that's only going to make him a better pitcher not only next year, but for the rest of his career.
Despite a gem by Blackburn, White Sox starter John Danks also threw the game of his life. He gave up just 2 hits through 8 innings of scoreless ball to pick up his 12th and most important win of the season. The Twins averaged 4.85 runs on the road this season (4.91 runs prior to the game), but they were shutout 9 times this season (including last night), including 7 times on the road. It's unfortunate that this team has so many problems on the road, compared to home, but it's not uncommon. But it does stink.
I agree with Seth Stohs in that Michael Cuddyer had to go on that infamous play that will undoubtedly be played over and over on ESPN and in the minds of the Twins players throughout the off-season. How about we just call it the "unfortunate incident?" Cuddyer had to tag on that play for if he didn't and that ball got away, he wouldn't have heard the end of it. However A.J. Pierzynski made a great play on the ball and Cuddyer was out despite his effort to knock the ball loose.
It's unfortunate that the season had to end like this, however the Twins need to feel very pleased with how they played throughout the season. The team has been a contender for most of the past decade and despite many (including myself) believing that this year was a "rebuilding year" and that they wouldn't make the playoffs, or even contend, the team yet again proved the doubters wrong and did just that. For that, this season has been a big success regardless of whether or not they made the playoffs.
The White Sox deserve to go. The Twins had plenty of opportunities this season to pick up an extra win and after losing three of their last four games including two against the Royals, they pretty much handed the White Sox the division. Also, the White Sox essentially played three do-or-die games in a row and won all three, which is very impressive.
I don't have much more to say. It was an unfortunate loss, but when you break down the season as a whole, it was definitely one that this team can feel good about.
I will be back tomorrow with my Division Series predictions, along with my early predictions of the Championship Series and World Series predictions as well.
Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher
Line: 6 1/3 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 3 k