The State of the Race
The Twins and White Sox head into the last off day of the season tomorrow before facing off in the biggest series of the year in the Metrodome from Tuesday to Thursday. The Sox will have a 2.5 game lead heading into that series, and for the Twins it really is something of a last stand -- after all, those three games will mark the last chance for the Twins to control their own destiny.
When the two teams finish up the series, the Twins will have three games to go at home against the Royals to finish off the season. The White Sox, meanwhile, will head home to play the Indians -- and if the AL Central race is within a half game either way after that series, they'll also host the Tigers in a makeup game on the Monday after the official regular season comes to an end.
There is no question that the Twins need to at the very least win the series with the White Sox. After all, if the Twins get swept the White Sox would clinch the AL Central race. If the Sox win the series 2-1, they'll have a 3.5 game lead when they leave Minnesota -- and for the Twins to get into the playoffs at that point, they'd need to sweep the Royals, the Indians would have to sweep Chicago, AND the Tigers would have to win the makeup game. In other words, the Twins would need 7 games to all come out the right way, which is unlikely.
If the Twins win the series 2-1, there will at least still be hope. They would trail Chicago by 1.5 games, and could at least force the game with the Tigers to take place if they did one game better than the White Sox in the last full series of the year. The Sox would still have a tremendous edge in this scenario, however -- so clearly it isn't optimal.
What if the Twins sweep? We'll, at that point they WOULD control their own destiny, at least to an extent. A Twins sweep would put them 1/2 game ahead of the White Sox going into the last series. If they then swept the Royals, they could at the very least force a playoff with Chicago -- and the Sox would have to win each of their last four games to force that tiebreaker. Of course, the odds of the Twins winning each of their last six ballgames to finish out of the season are not particularly high.
I remain hopeful that the Twins can put it together against the Sox and make things interesting heading into next weekend. If not, by this time next week it will be time to conduct a postmortem on the season. I'd much rather be talking about first round playoff matchups!