As you can see from my last two postings, I woke up Thursday morning feeling a lot more hopeful than I did Wednesday night after their second loss to the Tigers. And I still feel that way thanks to an utterly necessary victory on Thursday afternoon against Detroit. Even if your spirits aren't as high as mine, you can at least take solace in the fact that: a) there will be at least one more meaningful game in the Metrodome, b) the Tigers will not be able to celebrate with the Twins looking on from the other dugout, and c) the Twins have battled through numerous injuries and have still not been eliminated with just three games to go.
Now, you may say, what does that matter if the Twins aren't going to make the playoffs. You might say, why should I think they have a shot? And that would certainly be a logical argument: They're two games back with only 3 games to play, and they have to go up against the possible Cy Young winner Zack Greinke in one of the games. Well, my answer is simply, why not? Why is it that the Twins have no shot?
The Tigers will host the White Sox for three games, and they need to lose at least two of those to leave the Twins a window of opportunity. They did just that only last weekend, with the obvious (and important) difference being that the series was in Chicago. Take a look at the pitching match-ups, though. It's Jake Peavy vs. Edwin Jackson on Friday. Jackson has been quite good this year, but so has Peavy in his limited playing time. More importantly, Peavy handled the Tigers one week ago, plowing through 7 scoreless innings and striking out 8 with a modest 95 pitches.
Next up it's Alfredo Figaro against Freddy Garcia. Figaro will be making just his third major league start in his fifth major league game, and thus far has an ERA of 5.74. Garcia, meanwhile, will be making his eighth start of the season. He got knocked around his last time out by Detroit, but before that he had pitched six innings and allowed 3 or fewer runs in six consecutive starts. On Sunday, if it still matters, it will be Justin Verlander opposite Mark Buehrle. Obviously that game will be tough regardless of who pitches for the White Sox, but Ozzie Guillen has stated it will be Buehrle in the case that the Twins are still alive--and the White Sox won't necessarily have to win this one anyway.
For the Twins, Jeff Manship will pitch on Friday against Lenny DiNardo. This figures to be high-scoring, as Manship has not exactly been lights-out and DiNardo has been awful as well. He's walked 13 versus just 8 strikeouts and has allowed 21 runs (17 earned) in 20.1 innings. There's no doubt it's a winnable game for the Twins. Saturday will be the toughest game for sure, as Zack Greinke will be starting. Countering with Nick Blackburn just isn't equal, and it doesn't help that he'll be pitching on 3-days rest. But it's only one game, and you never know what can happen in that small sample size.
On Sunday, it will be quite an achievement if the Twins are able to suck viewers away from football, even though the Vikings don't play until Monday, because it will mean they're still in the hunt. Brian Duensing is currently penciled in to start, and I haven't seen anything about other options if it is the deciding game. Sure, he's not the guy you won't to be taking the mound in that situation, but you also DO want Luke Hochevar to be staring in from the pitching rubber for the other team. He's allowed at least as many runs as innings he's pitched in five of his last six starts, and he's allowed fewer than 4 runs in an outing just twice since July.
All told, the fact that I've spent this much time analyzing the next series means I really think they could do it. Coolstandings gives the Twins an 8.2 % chance to still make the playoffs. Certainly not something I'd bet on, but also more than enough for me to still hope.
I realize this was overly positive and extremely biased, and I've left out many reasons why the Twins won't win the division. My response: that's the point. Perhaps I'm setting myself up for a huge fall, and I should have just sunken into misery after Minnesota's loss in Wednesday and been done with it. But I haven't. I won't give up until it's officially over. In some situations, that statement would be ridiculous. But not with only three games left in the season.