The Show Must Go On: Game 163
Image courtesy of MLB The Show 20, SonyTo get caught up on what we're doing here, you can check out the introductory post in the series for an explanation of the premise and setup. But the quick version is this: We're playing a progressive simulated Twins season on MLB The Show 20 on PS4, and y'all are helping guide the ship. In each installment I'll update you on what's happened since the last, and put at least one key decision up for vote.
Date In Game: 9/28
Team Record: 94-68
Leading OPS: Luis Arraez (.909 in 528 AB)
Leading ERA (SP): Alex Wood (2.77 in 178.2 IP)
Leading ERA (RP): Tyler Duffey (1.77 in 69.1 IP)
LATEST RESULTS (4-2)
Gm 157 @ SD: W 6-2 (Garver 3-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI)
Gm 158 @ SD: L 2-1 (Snell 6 IP, 1 ER)
Gm 159 @ SD: W 6-2 (Cruz 2-4, 5 RBI)
Gm 160 @ KC: W 3-1 (Polanco 2-4, HR, 2 RBI)
Gm 161 @ KC: W 3-2 (Cruz 4-4, 2 RBI)
Gm 162 @ KC: L 4-1 (Wood 3 IP, 3 ER, L)
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
The final week of the season was quite a ride, with Minnesota and Cleveland running in lockstep to the finish line, so it's best to take it day-by-day since we last left off, with the Twins trailing by a half-game in the division.
Tuesday, September 22nd
The Twins took their first game in San Diego 6-2. Alex Wood was lights-out (7 IP, 1 ER). Mitch Garver powered the offense with two homers (his 19th and 20th on the year) while Marwin Gonzalez – voted in by y'all last time as our regular LF for the final week – chipped in another.
Meanwhile Cleveland beat the White Sox 5-2, riding seven innings of two-run ball from Adam Civale, to maintain its half-game lead.
CLEVELAND UP 0.5 G
Wednesday, September 23rd
Our Twins had no answer for Padres starter Chris Paddack, who matched Blake Snell's six innings of one-run ball. Bullpens dueled for a couple innings before drama unfolded in the top half of the ninth. Tied 1-1, Minnesota loaded the bases with two outs, and up came the pitcher's spot. With a righty on the mound and multiple pinch-hitters exhausted, we turned to the rookie, Alex Kirilloff, struggling in his first go at the big leagues. He popped out. In the bottom half, old friend Brian Dozier went yard off Sergio Romo to give San Diego a walk-off win.
It was a tough sequence of blows made worse by the Indians completing a sweep in Chicago, with Cleveland's offense racking up 16 hits in a 9-5 victory.
CLEVELAND UP 1.5 G
Thursday, September 24th
We bounced back in a 6-2 win to clinch with a series victory in SoCal. Nelson Cruz drove in five runs on a pair of doubles while Jose Berrios held the Padres to two runs over six innings, notching his 20th win. He went 9-0 after the All-Star break, and finishes the season as MLB's only 20-game winner. What a season. He might have a chance for one more ...
Cleveland was idle, so we regained a half-game heading into the season's last series. For the Twins it was off to KC, while the Indians were set to host Toronto.
CLEVELAND UP 1.0 G
Friday, September 25th
The Twins took the first game 3-1 behind 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball from Jake Odorizzi, who improved to 15-10 and 3.65 ERA, which will be his final numbers in 192 innings. Altogether pretty similar to his 2019 output. Jorge Polanco's two RBIs proved to be the difference.
In Cleveland, the Indians lost a 12-11 barnburner against the Blue Jays, who got seven RBIs from left fielder Teoscar Hernandez.
CLEVELAND AND MINNESOTA TIED FOR 1ST PLACE
Saturday, September 26th
It was another quiet night for Minnesota's offense, outside of Cruz's four singles and two RBIs, but Kenta Maeda navigated his way through trouble (5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 K) and handed a 3-2 lead over to Romo, Duffey and Rogers, who shut it down the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the Indians lost another one-run game – albeit a much less eventful one. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Shane Bieber dueled into the seventh, bullpens traded zeroes, and eventually Toronto pushed one across in the top of the 12th.
With one game left to go, our Twins had pulled ahead in the AL Central. A win against KC in the finale would seal it.
MINNESOTA UP 1.0 G
Sunday, September 27th
A couple weeks back, I proposed a rotation shuffle that would've involved skipping one of Odorizzi's final turns in order to get Berrios a 34th start in the season's final game. That notion was struck down by voters in the comments. I'm not saying it was the wrong choice, because we'll still have a chance to use our ace in the season's biggest game (more on that momentarily), but Alex Wood did not answer the call in a huge moment.
Though he's been on a good run lately, Wood didn't seem to have much from the get-go in this one. He pitched into the fourth but couldn't record an out there, ending a great campaign with an ugly final line: 3 IP, 5 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 2 K. Maybe it was all moot because the offense couldn't muster much of anything against Danny Duffy in a 4-1 loss.
Naturally, the Indians won their finale against Toronto 10-3, fueled by Carlos Santana's five RBIs. The good news, I guess, is that Mike Clevinger started, so he won't be available for the ultimate showdown triggered by this day's events.
CLEVELAND AND MINNESOTA TIED FOR 1ST PLACE
For the third time in its history, the American League Central will be decided by a one-game tiebreaker, and for the third time it'll involve Minnesota. The Twins, having edged Cleveland 11-7 in the season series, will host Game 163 at Target Field.
This isn't do-or-die, since the loser will fall back on the No. 1 wild-card seed – and a home date against the 91-72 Boston Red Sox – but the winner moves onto the ALDS and home field advantage against the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays (92-71).
(Yes folks, that means the Yankees have missed – I REPEAT MISSED – the playoffs, finishing 86-76. The 89-73 Astros also missed out. Ya hate to see it.)
The Angels, who finished 103-59 to run away with the West, have the AL's No. 1 seed. Obviously, we wanna win this game against Cleveland and set ourselves up much more favorably for the postseason. So, let's talk about it.
DECISION TIME: WHO STARTS GAME 163?
In this division-deciding battle, the Indians are poised to go with right-hander Adam Civale, which qualifies as a bit of a break for our Twins. Civale has been fine but he's pretty clearly Cleveland's fifth starter, with the rotation's highest ERA (4.08) and WHIP (1.38), as well as its only losing record (11-12). But unfortunately Minnesota's offense has been prone to coming up quiet against unspectacular opponents.
So who should we counter with? The decision looms large.
The stamina situation for each starting option is depicted in the graphic below. We basically have three options: Snell on full rest, Berrios on three days rest, or getting a bit creative. Let's explore the merits of each.
Option 1: Blake Snell
Our blockbuster deadline addition is lined up for this start. He is our highest-rated starting pitcher (91) in the game, and would be pitching on full rest. But if you've been following along, you know that Snell's been quite inconsistent since coming over from the Rays. Among our starters, he has the highest strikeout rate (10.7 K/9) but also the highest ERA (3.87) and WHIP (1.39). To his credit, Snell did pitch well his last time out, allowing one run on four hits in six innings against the Padres.
Option 2: Jose Berrios
He's clearly our best starter and very possibly the best starter in the league. Berrios has had an amazing season overall but has been especially unstoppable since turning a corner in mid-May; over his final 25 turns, he went 16-2 with a 2.46 ERA, and we've gone 10-3 in his starts since the All-Star break. But he's not quite back to full strength after beating the Padres four days ago. Perhaps more importantly, if Berrios starts this game on short rest, he'll be unavailable to start the Wild Card Game (should we lose) or Game 1 of the ALDS (should we win).
Option 3: Piggybacking Odorizzi and Pineda
Kenta Maeda would be the obvious third option, given that he's an All-Star and 18-game winner who's gone 5-0 with a 2.11 ERA in five September starts, but unfortunately starting him on one day's rest just isn't an option. But Jake Odorizzi on two day's rest...? His stamina's in decent shape as you can see above. We wouldn't expect him to go very deep but could easily turn to Michael Pineda, our fully rested long reliever who's been outstanding with a 3.35 ERA in 45 2/3 innings, as a bridge to the bullpen. This unconventional pitcher-stacking strategy would be akin to the one used by Minnesota in a season-defining doubleheader sweep against Cleveland last summer. It would also leave us with a full complement of starting options available for whatever comes next.
I definitely need some help with this decision. Feel free to voice your preference in the comments.
Part 1: We Can Build This Thing Together (0-0)
Part 2: 10 Games In, 6 Games Back (4-6)
Part 3: Roaring Back (11-9)
Part 4: Over the Hill (17-13)
Part 5: Checking In at the Quarter Point (23-17)
Part 6: Rising Power (30-20)
Part 7: First Place! (Barely) (34-26)
Part 8: Drafting and Dropping (38-32)
Part 9: Cruz Control (45-35)
Part 10: Pulling Ahead (52-38)
Part 11: Bashing into the All-Star Break (58-40)
Part 12: Deadline Decisions (62-46)
Part 13: Inauspicious Debuts (66-52)
Part 14: Treading Water as the Clock Ticks (71-57)
Part 15: Stretch Race & September Call-Ups (78-59)
Part 16: Dancing for the Division (84-63)
Part 17: Down to the Wire (90-66)
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