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The White Sox have quit. The Twins have won the AL Central Division title. OK, nothing is official yet. Yes, crazy things can happen, and yet, I don’t think that you could say that crazier things have happened. The White Sox had chances early in the game, but Brian Duensing found a way to get out of it every time. Then came the fifth inning. Joe Mauer drilled a three-run home run. That opened up the flood gates. The Twins added three runs in the sixth inning, and then three runs in the seventh inning. In the end, for the second straight night, the Twins topped the White Sox 9-3.
The Twins have an eight game lead over the White Sox in the AL Central. The Twins Magic Number to win the division is now ten.
Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox quit. Down 6-2, the Twins put runners on base, and Guillen did not even bring the infield in. When it was 6-2, it made no sense. By the time it was 8-2 and 9-2, it didn’t matter. But you could tell from the body language of Guillen, and it transferred to his players, that they are done.
Joe Mauer had another great game. He was 3-4 with the three run homer, a walk and is now hitting .330 again. Jim Thome was 2-3 with a walk and two more runs driven in. Denard Span had two hits for the second straight night. Danny Valencia had two hits, including a double, and a sacrifice fly. JJ Hardy has been on fire, and he again had two hits. He is 9-21 in his past six games with two doubles and a homer.
Frankly, the Twins lineup is coming together now. In these games, games the Twins really want to win, they have received contribution from everyone. It’s been fun to watch the team, up and down the lineup. They have received two quality starts. The bullpen has been incredible.
The lone negative in this game, in my personal opinion, was the bullpen usage in tonight’s game. I understand that you want to make sure to win this game. However, when the lead got to 9-3, there was no reason for Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares and Matt Capps to pitch. None. Think about it this way. What if the Twins have a one or two run lead tomorrow? Can Capps pitch again? What about Guerrier? Yes, the Twins bullpen has tremendous depth, but that depth, and the 11 man bullpen now, means that they should be strong.
The new goal is to achieve the best record in the American League and have home field advantage in the playoffs. Here is how that stands going into Thursday:
Tampa Bay 88-57
NY Yankees 88-58 0.5 Games Back
Minnesota 87-58 1.0 Games Back
How important is home field advantage? The Twins are 48-23 at Target Field this year. Yes, they are 39-35 on the road, which is very good. But to be able to win home field advantage would be huge. Can the Twins beat the Rays? It’s the worst matchup, in my opinion, for the Twins, but the Twins have done it. Can they beat the Rangers? Certainly. Can they beat the Yankees? No question about it. It has seemingly been a mental issue the last couple of years, but is there any question that this Minnesota Twins team is beaming with confidence? And they should. They should walk with a swagger. They should know that they are as good as any team in baseball. In fact, they should feel that they are the best team in the league.
And yes, I think that the White Sox season ended the night before when Jesse Crain struck out Paul Konerko and Manny Ramirez, holding on to a 4-3 lead. That was the beginning of the end for the White Sox. Since that time, the Twins have dominated.
The Twins have won ten of their last twelve games in Chicago. At some point, don’t we have to say that it is no longer a rivalry since one team wins the majority of the games? The Twins have gone 13-2 in their last 15 games. This team is playing great, and hopefully they can continue it for another month, right through the playoffs.
Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.