Twins have slight edge over White Sox in AL Central race
Some call us analysts. Some call us experts. Some even call us pundits.Whatever you call us, it comes down to this: We're supposed to know what's going to happen next. Fortunately, no one expects perfection. I say "fortunately" because the White Sox and Twins, who are locked in a death match for the American League Central title, are about as even as two teams can be. The White Sox have won 86 games; the Twins have won 86 games. The White Sox have outscored their opponents by 81 runs; the Twins have outscored theirs by 87 runs. The White Sox have a fantastic record at home, 51-26; the Twins have the same record at home.
|White Sox (G. Floyd) at Twins (K. Slowey), 8:10 ET|
Royals (K. Davies) at Twins (F. Liriano), 8:10 ET
Indians (S. Lewis) at White Sox (J. Danks), 8:11 ET
|Royals (G. Meche) at Twins (G. Perkins), 3:55 ET
Indians (Z. Jackson) at White Sox (J. Vazquez), 7:05 ET
Indians (C. Lee) at White Sox (M. Buehrle), 2:05 ET
Royals (Z. Greinke) at Twins (S. Baker), 2:10 ET
The White Sox are missing left fielder (and one-time MVP candidate) Carlos Quentin and have replaced him with journeyman Dewayne Wise. They're also missing third baseman Joe Crede and have replaced him with light-hitting shortstop Juan Uribe. Meanwhile, the Twins probably are as healthy as they've been all season, allowing manager Ron Gardenhire the luxury of writing whichever names he prefers into the lineup every day.But the most obvious strength difference between the two teams is that the Twins have five starting pitchers they trust, while the White Sox are down to four. Unwilling to rely on rookie Clayton Richard, manager Ozzie Guillen has decided to ride his four horses as far as he can. Javier Vazquez started last week on three days' rest and apparently will be asked to start against the Indians on Saturday, again on three days' rest. On Wednesday, Mark Buehrle started against the Twins on three days' rest, and apparently he'll be asked to start against the Indians on Sunday, again on three days' rest. And if the White Sox have to play the Tigers on Monday, Gavin Floyd apparently will be asked to start on three days' rest. How well is it working so far? As Phil Rogers writes in the Chicago Tribune, "Including Buehrle's start Wednesday, the White Sox's top three starters have allowed 23 runs on 35 hits and 10 walks in 27 innings over five games since Guillen went to the whip."
Perhaps it's not an unreasonable gamble but it's a gamble nonetheless. Meanwhile, the Twins don't have to gamble at all. Gardenhire trusts all five of his starters, and all five of them keep plugging away on four days' rest. On Thursday night, behind Kevin Slowey, the Twins are favored to complete their sweep of the White Sox. On Friday night, the Twins, behind Francisco Liriano, will be heavy favorites against the Royals.If there's a fly in the Twins' ointment, it's this: On Saturday and Sunday, they're scheduled to face Gil Meche and Zack Greinke, who not only are the Royals' two best pitchers but also two of the better starters in the American League. Greinke ranks fifth in the AL in strikeouts, Meche sixth. But Minnesota will be favored in those games, too. So we have to give it the best chance you'll ever see for a team that's in second place on the last Thursday of the season.
No rest for the wearyWhite Sox starters aren't the only ones being asked to pitch on short rest this week.
Stranded in QueensIf the Mets wind up in the playoffs, what happened Wednesday night will be mostly forgotten. If they don't, what happened might become the single most memorable moment of the season. Specifically remembered would be what happened in the ninth inning. Oh, they'd already blown some chances. In both the fifth and sixth innings, the Mets' leadoff men walked but never scored. In the seventh, they put runners on first and third with nobody out but never scored. They did tie the game with a run in the eighth but left the bases loaded. The bottom of the ninth was the killer, though. Daniel Murphy led off for the Mets. With a 1-2 count, Bob Howry grooved a fastball, and Murphy drove it to right-center. With the Cubs' outfielders playing shallow, the ball skipped to the wall and Murphy wound up with the seventh triple of his professional career.
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MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
PENNANT PULSE 2008
Every day until the end of the regular season, an ESPN.com writer will write about a hot topic related to the pennant races.
• Sept. 28: Rogers: White Sox turn to Buehrle
• Sept. 27: Nelson: Mets on the brink
• Sept. 26: Crasnick: Wet, wild final weekend
• Sept. 25: Neyer: Twins in position in AL Central
• Sept. 24: Crasnick: Spoilers await contenders
• Sept. 23: Keri: Don't count out Diamondbacks
• Sept. 22: Stark: Good (and bad) relief in NL East
• Sept. 21: Shea: Cubs, Rays make it official
• Sept. 20: Nelson: It's Rays' day
• Sept. 19: Crasnick: Phils' time of year
• Sept. 18: Neyer: Three teams, two spots
• Sept. 17: Keri: Twins slipping up at wrong time
• Sept. 16: Klapisch: Mets repeating '07
• Sept. 15: Crasnick: Rays great at home
• Sept. 14: Stone: Watch Angels' bullpen
• Sept. 13: Nelson: Let's play two!
• Sept. 12: Stark: Brewers going flat
• Sept. 11: Klapisch: Astros hand ball to Oswalt
• Sept. 10: Rogers: Not '69 again for Cubs
• Sept. 9: Neyer: No sure thing from NL closers
• Sept. 8: Keri: Red Sox charging to top