Congratulations to the Minnesota Twins and their fans. You have to hand it to a team that finished the season 17-4 (and the Tigers were responsible for 3 of those 4 losses) without their second best player. They went out and took the division from the Tigers. They went down 3 runs early tonight and came back to take the lead. They were down in extra innings and tied it up. The Twins went out and won one of the best and most entertaining baseball games I’ve ever seen.
As for the Tigers, congratulations doesn’t really fit. But they did play a heck of a game against a red hot opponent in a hostile environment in the midst of a media blitz and distractions. Unfortunately they came up short on too many rallies tonight (and throughout the season) and like in 2006 the Tigers surrendered first place on the last day of the season.
We’ll discuss what comes next for the team in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime a litany of thoughts on tonight’s game:
- Rick Porcello was amazing. I don’t know where the 8 K’s came from but the way he pitched gave the Twins fits. If most voters hadn’t already cast their ballots there’s a decent chance he wins Rookie of the Year.
- Miguel Cabrera quieted talk of focus and distraction with a double and a homer in his first 2 at-bats. He also did a nice job getting to 3rd base in the 12th inning on Don Kelly’s hit. I think saying he doesn’t care isn’t fair, even in light of what happened over the weekend.
- Fernando Rodney pitched well and he wasn’t the reason they lost. In Leyland’s post game he said that Rodney asked for the ball that last inning. He completes the season with only 1 blown save but he was on the mound when a ground ball found its way between first and second.
- Inge had a heck of a game with 2 spectacular diving plays and a big RBI double. He failed in 2 situations with runners on, but he certainly carried his weight tonight. Heck, he even should have had an RBI in the 12th when he was hit by a pitch and a call was missed.
- Like Inge there were so many players that had ups and downs tonight. Granderson got doubled off in the 9th inning in a baserunning mistake and took a bad angle on the ball that got by Raburn. But Grandy also had 2 hits and made a diving play in centerfield.
- Ryan Raburn lost the Cuddyer ball in the lights, but gunned a guy at the plate and also picked up a couple hits.
- Gerald Laird however will think about this one for awhile. He struck out to end the 9th and the 12th. He didn’t get a ball out of the infield, he failed on a sacrifice bunt. He didn’t even get the pleasure of throwing out a runner. But I do think his presence prevented some steal attempts. As much as I wanted him pinch hit for, I still wanted him behind the plate.
- So many plays to look back on, but the Magglio Ordonez line out to shortstop is still the killer. He ripped a ball off of Nathan and had nothing to show for it. Ugh.
- And the other play was the grounder up the middle that ended up out of the reach of Polanco. We’re so used to Placido making plays all over the place. That the ball was out of his reach is something I still can’t believe.
The Tigers went 17-16 in September and October. For the season they finished as a .527 winning percentage team. I don’t know that constitutes a collapse. Yes, they had every chance to put the division away and they should take heat for that. But they didn’t tank in the 2nd half. The Twins went and took the division from them.
I will throw out one offseason prediction that I’d guess happens soon. My guess is that Lloyd McClendon will be relieved of his hitting coach duties. Not because of this game, but because of a season’s worth of offensive struggles. I don’t know if he’ll be fired or moved to another coaching position, but I think Lloyd will be gone.