Detroit 6, Minnesota 2 (box)
Magic Number 11
Placido Polanco is not sure where he’ll be playing in 2010. Nate Robertson and Zach Miner might be reasonably sure, but can’t say what role they will pitch in. All three of those players were important to the chances of the 2009 team with their contributions in yesterday’s game.
Robertson was making a start that wasn’t scheduled, thanks to a knee injury to Jarrod Washburn. He was battling an injury of his own in his last outing, but was able to recover from his groin strain in time to take the ball in the series finale at the Metrodome.
To call the game a must-win would be overstating it, but it certainly was a would-really-be-helpful-to-win game for the Tigers. A series sweep for the Twins would have put them just one game behind the Tigers with 13 games to play.
Early, it didn’t look great for Robertson and the Tigers, but he managed to limit first-inning damage to one run after the Twins put runners on the corners with one out. From there, only a two-out RBI single from Nick Punto in the fourth would mar his outing. Robertson accomplished what Washburn had been unable to in so many of his starts, he kept the Tigers in the game.
The Twins lead 2-1 entering the fifth, when Polanco reared his mis-shapen head. With runners on second and third and one out, Polanco served a soft single to right, scoring both Gerald Laird and Ramon Santiago to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead. Polly later added the final insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth to push the Tiger lead to four.
Meanwhile, Detroit’s bullpen staved off any comeback attempts from the Twins, with four innings of two-hit relief, lead by two frames from Zach Miner. Miner took over for Robertson in the sixth, protecting a one-run lead. When he left the game after the seventh, the lead was intact, and he had faced just seven hitters to retire six of them. Bobby Seay and Fernando Rodney finished the game without incident.
- Nate Robertson– Nate showed the bulldog mentality and biting slider that made him a staple of the Tigers rotation for so long. It certainly looks like the elbow surgery he underwent in June has paid off. With Washburn struggling, Robertson should slot into the playoff rotation, should the Tigers get there.
- Placido Polanco– Remember when all the Tigersphere was fretting over Polly and Maggs? Polly was hitting just .256 at the all-star break, but since, he has posted a .318 average and .778 OPS.
- Zach Miner– Sometimes, Miner looks like he belongs, sometimes he looks like he would rather be anywhere but on a pitcher’s mound. Miner insists he’s a starter, but Jim Leyland disagrees. I still think it’s likely he’s pitching elsewhere next season, but Miner is certainly capable of turning in solid performances, he just doesn’t do it with enough consistency. The Tigers probably don’t win yesterday without him, however.
- Gerald Laird– Laird had his third multi-hit game of September and is hitting .346 over his last eight, while posting an OPS of .846 during that stretch. The added rest provided by Alex Avila appears to be having a positive effect of Laird’s numbers.
- Denard Span– Span has eaten Tigers’ pitching for lunch all season, but he took home the Golden Sombrero with his four strike out performance yesterday, fanning three times against Robertson and once against Miner.
What’s on tap
The final off-day for the Tigers happens today as the team travels to Cleveland and then to Chicago for a pair of three game sets on their final road trip of 2009. Edwin Jackson will start the series opener on Tuesday, opposite Aaron Laffey for Cleveland.
The Twins embark on their final road trip starting tonight with three games in Chicago. After a day off on Thursday, they will spend three games in Kansas City with the red-hot Royals before heading to Detroit for four games with the Tigers. With just 13 games left in the season, the each game becomes the most important game of the year. The first of which will see Nick Blackburn hurl against 22-year-old rookie Daniel Hudson of the White Sox. The Sox are technically still alive in the Central race and have six games left with the Tigers, but they almost need to win out to have a chance. A win today would certainly help the Tigers cause as well.