Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tigers could clinch AL Central at home against Twins next week

        Mission accomplished.
        Despite being blanked by Minnesota rookie Brian Duensing on Friday night, despite the crushing disappointment on Saturday when rookie Don Kelly, inserted in left field for his defense, lost sight of Orlando Cabrera’s routine fly against the backdrop of the dingy white Metrodome roof, the Tigers escaped what looked like it was going to be a disastrous weekend  as Nate Robertson, restored to the starting rotation because Jim Leyland didn’t have anyone else, rose to the occasion with his biggest game of the year.
        The Tigers desperately needed to win at least one game against the Twins over the weekend. 
        That was what they did. That was all they did.
        But it was enough.
        Believe me, the difference between leading by one game and being three games in front, is huge.
        Now the Tigers go to Cleveland and then on to Chicago with their magic number for clinching the American League Central down to 11.
        If the Tigers continue to get good pitching, and if their hitters wake up, they should be a position to lock up a place in the postseason when the Twins come to Comerica Park for four games Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
        Sunday’s must-win 6-2 triumph over the Twins meant that much.
        Had the Tigers been swept, the lead they have enjoyed since May 10, would have been down to one game.
        The Twins, who are already beginning to believe, would have been further invigorated.
        And the Tigers would have begun to seriously sweat, which is never a good thing in the heat of a pennant race.
        The Tigers are not home free yet, by any means.
        If they don’t play any better than they have for the past two weeks, they can forget about the postseason.
        Sunday marked the Tigers’ final appearance in Minnesota’s dismal excuse for a ballpark known as the Metrodome.
        And they certainly don’t hate to see it go.
        In a book Andy Van Slyke and I wrote about the 2008 season, the Tigers’ first base coach summed up the team’s feelings about the place.
        “The Metrodome is the most unique place in the American League to play --  and, in a lot of ways, it is also the most annoying place to play,” Van Slyke declared.
        “Aesthetically, it certainly is the ugliest. This ballpark just has a murkiness to it. There is no cleanliness, no crispness to the Metrodome.
        “The noise is deafening, they’ve got artificial turf, and you’re playing inside.
        “It smells, believe me, it smells terrible in the visitors’ dugout. That may be from all of the teams that have gotten their brains beaten in here over the years, all of the carnage that has been left in the visitors’ dugout.
        “Whatever the reason, this really is a strange place.”


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