Tiebreaker Stands Between Twins, Tigers And Playoffs
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The Major League Baseball playoffs are just about set, except for one spot: the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers ended up tied in their division so they will play a deciding game tomorrow evening in Minneapolis. NPR's Mike Pesca is here to talk about that. Good morning, Mike.
MIKE PESCA: Hi, how are you?
INSKEEP: You think the Twins are doing this as a sort of party trick? Trying to see if they can tie the division every year?
PESCA: I'm sure Twins fans and the Twins coaches and players were like why can't we establish a lead, say, in August and defend it? They hadn't been in first place since May 14, but they stuck around and stuck around and they caught a break in that Detroit's offense has just gone cold and they managed to catch Detroit. And it really didn't look possible going into the last series of the season.
But they won two out of three; Detroit lost two out of three, and here's this playoff on Tuesday.
INSKEEP: And now this is the second straight year that the Twins have been in a one-game playoff like this. It's pretty amazing.
PESCA: Right. And the history isn't good for the teams who just eke into the playoffs on a playoff, but they have more of a chance than the teams who don't get in.
INSKEEP: I suppose that's true. Well, let's talk about some of the other teams that are in: the Angels, the Red Sox, and of course, the Yankees.
PESCA: The Yankees are the team to beat this year - they have the most wins in baseball. But like any team, so much will rest on their pitching. CC Sabathia, the ace of their staff, has been excellent. But behind him, question marks. They don't know where they're going to get their starting pitching from. So far it's held up. And the lucky thing, if you're a Yankee fan, is that once you get through inning six or seven, their bullpen - anchored by Mariano Rivera - is excellent and really an advantage in the playoffs. A good bullpen; very important.
INSKEEP: He's been amazing for years and years, hasn't he?
PESCA: He almost - he blows two or three saves a year. The guy is amazing.
INSKEEP: And let's talk about who the Yankees would face - or whoever else would face in the American League - if they get to the World Series. I love this possibility, this possibility of a sort of Brett Favre moment, if you will. If the Yankees were to make the World Series, they could end up facing the Dodgers and the Yankees' former manager, Joe Torre.
PESCA: Every baseball fan is saying, sir, you cheapen the moment by bringing up the F word.
(Soundbite of laughter)
PESCA: But, yeah, it would be so… Now, the Dodgers do have the best record in the National League. And should Joe Torre play his former team, that would just be great. But the problem with the Dodgers is they haven't been going well lately. And their slugger, Manny Ramirez, has hit something like .229 over the last month of the season.
As goes Manny, so goes that team. And without Manny slugging, the Dodgers are in trouble. And, again, every time you talk playoffs you have to talk starting pitching. Their starting pitching hasn't been great.
INSKEEP: Well, then you end up with St. Louis, Philadelphia or Colorado, I guess.
PESCA: I think most people think St. Louis is probably the team to beat -though it is more wide open. Philadelphia is the defending champion. Big problem with them is that their bullpen - we talked about Mariano Rivera - Brad Lidge, who was perfect when the Phillies won the World Series last year, literally didn't blow a game all year, has been just horrendous this year. Has an ERA up in the sevens. And no one is even quite sure who's going to close for Philadelphia.
INSKEEP: And, Mike Pesca, since it is Monday, which is when you have Monday Night Football, I should mention when I said a Brett Favre moment, of course, I'm talking about the former Green Bay Packer, Brett Favre, playing against his old team tonight.
PESCA: Oh, to be a fan in Minneapolis, the center of the sports universe. Favre going against the Packers is big news. It's a very interesting story. To listen to sports radio or watch ESPN, you'd think it was the battle of Waterloo and the Bulge and Thermopylae all rolled up into one. They've definitely over-hyped it.
But it's going to be a great game, and that game tonight is why the playoff baseball series has to be held on Tuesday. So, if the Twins win, they will be a little bit at a disadvantage because they didn't have that day's rest - and for that they could possibly blame Brett Favre.
INSKEEP: That does sound more important than Thermopylae to me, actually.
PESCA: Just to keep it in perspective.
INSKEEP: Mike, thanks very much.
PESCA: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's sports correspondent Mike Pesca.
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