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The Show Must Go On: Game 163

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I can't believe it.


In the absence of an actual 162-game season in 2020, we've been progressively simulating one here on Twins Daily. Over the course of 17 installments, commenters have helped guide our virtual team through a thrilling back-and-forth battle with Cleveland for first place.


Now, with all 162 in the books, the Twins and Indians have arrived at identical 94-68 records. We're gonna play a tiebreaker for the division.To 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)




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)





Download attachment: alcstandings928.jpeg



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.




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.


Download attachment: dozierpadres.jpeg

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.




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 ...


Download attachment: alwinleaders928.jpeg

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.




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.




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.




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.




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.)


Download attachment: alwcstandings928.jpeg

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.




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.


Download attachment: twinsrotation928.jpeg

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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This is what we acquired Snell for - when one game decides something.


If he lays an egg and we go next to a one-game wild-card series, we've got Berrios on normal rest for another game that really decides something.


If Snell pitches like we hope and we win, we start a series with Tampa with Berrios on normal rest.


I like the way it's set up.

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Thank you, Nick for giving us some baseball excitement while we  have been  put on hold! I`d go w/ the piggy back idea & I`d reward Odo over Blake because he`s earned it over the years & if Odo has been consistent I most definitely would. Also I`m happy that Romero has been contributing very nicely & that NYY & HOU are out! I wouldn`t put too much stress on yourself, even though it`d be nice to defend our title, you still got us in the Play-offs

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I agree on Snell--his last game is hopefully the beginning of a hot streak. As an aside, I wonder how Eddie has done since we traded him?

I wondered about that too but the game doesn't break down season stats by team, and I don't remember exactly where he was at when we traded him. Here are his final overall numbers for the season, which are pretty much exactly in line with expectations: .281/.332/.489, 27 HR, 94 RBI.


I also checked in on Balazovic's final rookie numbers: 133.2 IP, 4.51 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 136-to-54 K/BB. Not too bad for a 22-year-old. Looks like he's been a full-timer in their rotation since the trade.


If we beat Cleveland we'll be facing these guys in the ALDS. That'd be pretty fun.



Angels went 103-59? Must have been the Jason Castro signing.

Yeah that was striking to me as well, given the (relatively) realistic way the rest of the divisions played out. The wild part is that Shohei Ohtani tore his labrum in his first start and missed the entire season. 


Mike Trout had his best season yet (.347/.444/.697, 40 HR, 121 RBI, 11.9 WAR) and they also got big offensive performances from Upton, Simmons, Rendon and La Stella. Castro was solid too (.244/.342/.404, 17 HR in 126 G). Dylan Bundy went 19-3 in the rotation (?!).

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