Posted at 3:08 PM on July 28, 2008
by Steve Rudolph
In all likelihood, the Twins postseason hopes hinge on the outcome of this four-game series with the White Sox. And I, for one, would rather have had Francisco Liriano starting against Mark Buehrle tonight than Kevin Slowey.
Instead Liriano started for Rochester on Sunday earning his 10th win of the season. According to reports, Liriano wasn't as dominant as he had been in past outings, but he still managed to strike out 9 in six innings. His only real mistake was the three-run shot he gave up in the sixth inning with two outs. (In his previous 10 starts Liriano had gone 9-0 with a 2.37 ERA so I'll cut him some slack.)
It's possible Liriano may not be back to where he was before his injury, but he appears close and there's no one on the Twins staff, save Scott Baker, who has the potential to shut down the opposition the way Liriano can.
So what if there's no obvious candidate for demotion. Liriano has the ability to give this team a lift when it appears unlikely the front office will do so through a trade.
He's also pitched in big games before, something the young arms on the staff have not -- a fact that was embarrassingly on display in New York last week. If the Twins wait any longer to be convinced that Liriano is ready to contribute, they'll likely have lost the chance for him to help them.
Posted at 4:18 PM on July 28, 2008
by Than Tibbetts
Here we find the Twins, 2.5 games back with a four-game homestand against the first place White Sox.
Is this series the harbinger for the Twins' playoff hopes?
You may remember last time the two teams met in June, where Chicago walked all over the Twins, outscoring them 40-15 en route to a four-game sweep. I'll bet the Twins remember it, too.
Unfortunately, the scheduling gurus at MLB decided that all four games should be weekday games — as are all three games in the final CHW-MIN series right before the end of the regular season — which could limit a little bit of the Twins' home field advantage. (It's okay to admit it, when the new stadium opens, you might miss the overwhelming reverberations when 40,000+ people are screaming under the Metrodome's roof.)
The Twins have to sweep to take the lead in the division, but the bigger question is whether the Twins can begin building momentum for a playoff run. Already, the Twins have done something they've done just once this decade in a first place season &mdash lose five games in a row after the All-Star break. (And that year, 2002, the Twins had the benefit of being ahead by 16 games.)
With the Central Division currently looking like its headed for a tight finish, any substantial losing streak between now and October could be the difference between the postseason and riding pine.
With that in mind, where do you think the Twins sit at the end of this series? My money's on a half game back, Twins take 3 of 4.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)