Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why They Play The Game

Yesterday's rainout in Detroit provides an opportunity for some last minute (the first game of today's twin bill starts in just over two hours) thoughts on the how the Central Division race will play out. There seems to be a fair amount of optimism among Twins loyalists about the squad's chances of catching or even passing the Tigers before the regular season comes to a close on Sunday. This is largely due to the improved play that the Twins have demonstrated down the stretch and the belief that the Tigers aren't that formidable an opponent.

While both of those sentiments have merit, I am not so sanguine about the Twins prospects. When you step back and look at the last seven games from the Tigers perspective, the situation is very favorable. They're essentially playing a seven game series at home and, as in a playoff series, need to win four games to avoid elimination. In fact, if they win any combination of four of their last seven games, the worst case scenario would be facing the Twins in a one game playoff to determine the division champion.

If they win three (or four) games against the Twins at home it's over.

If they win two against the Twins and two against the White Sox, they win the division.

Even if they only take one of four from the Twins, if they sweep the Sox the worst that could happen would be to tie the Twins (if the Twins swept the Royals).

So when you look at like that, you gotta like the Tigers chances. They have seven games at home. If they go 4-3 in those games, they likely win the division.

The Twins meanwhile have to win at least five of their last seven and really need to take three of four from Detroit to have any chance. They're fortunate enough to be able to face the Tigers head on so they at least have the opportunity to control their fate. But the odds are definitely stacked against them.

UPDATE: Twins squeeze (figuratively, not literally) out a win in game one 3-2. If they can find a way to beat Verlander tonight, they could turn the outlook for who wins the division on its head.

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