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  • That's the Ticket: Taming the Tigers

    Nick Nelson

    Once again, the Twins have been relegated to playing the spoiler role here in September, rather than actively competing for a postseason spot. Sigh.

    On the bright side, they have a chance to make an impact on the most compelling race in baseball. The Kansas City Royals haven't been to the playoffs since winning the World Series in 1985, and they're trying to get back. But they'll need to overcome a Tigers team that has reigned over the Central for three years straight.

    Detroit leads Kansas City by a game and a half, and comes to Target Field this week as the Twins launch their final homestand of 2014.

    Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports

    For those who enjoy baseball drama, it won't be tough to get invested in these games. While the Twins have little motivation beyond trying to avoid a fourth straight 95-loss season, the Tigers are entering an absolutely pivotal stretch, as they play three in Minnesota and then head straight to KC for what could be an epic showdown.

    If the Twins can win two or three against Detroit while the Royals do the same at home against the White Sox, Kansas City would have a chance to build a lead by the end of the weekend.

    There aren't very many baseball games left. The forecast calls for dry, cool nights: perfect sweatshirt weather. And the events at Target Field this week will help decide who wins the AL Central.

    Ticket King has some really cheap tickets for all three games in this series -- we're talking lower deck for under $10 -- so if you want to get out to the ballpark again before it's too late, this looks like an awfully good time to do so.

    Let's take a look at the matchups for each game:

    Monday, 7:10 PM: Max Scherzer vs. Anthony Swarzak

    Scheduled starter Tommy Milone's neck injury continued to nag him, so he's been shut down for the season and the Twins will turn to Swarzak, who has started only once this season, back on July 23rd.

    The Tigers will send Scherzer, the 2013 Cy Young winner who is enjoying another spectacular season. Obviously this is a bit of a lopsided matchup, but two things to note:

    1) Scherzer has recorded a quality start in nine of this last 10 turns. The only exception? That came at home against the Twins, who chased him after five innings in late August. It was the only time since mid-June that the righty has failed to pitch into the sixth.

    2) Swarzak beat the Indians in his lone start this season, holding them to one run over five innings, and he has posted a 3.54 ERA as a reliever since that outing.

    Tuesday, 7:10 PM: Rick Porcello vs. Ricky Nolasco

    Since getting demolished by a very good Orioles lineup in Baltimore at the end of August, Nolasco has looked pretty good in two September starts, allowing just three earned runs in 12 innings with a 10-to-1 K/BB ratio.

    Nolasco's poor finish last year set the tone for a disastrous season in 2014. Perhaps the opposite can be true this time around.

    Wednesday, 7:10 PM: David Price vs. Kyle Gibson

    Speaking of pitchers who need to finish on a positive note, we have Gibson. He shut down Detroit back in June, part of a 22-inning scoreless streak, but he has been struggling since that high point in the season, with a 6.04 ERA in his last 14 starts.

    Given his importance to the process of turning around this rotation, Gibson's backward steps in the second half have been extremely concerning. He hasn't had a quality start in a month and could really use one here.

    He'll have his work cut out for him, as the Twins lineup gets its first look at David Price in a Tigers uniform.



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    Thought I'd add this: 
    Detroit is 9-4 in September, including 5-1 in their last 6.  That stretch includes 2-1 series win against KC and a sweep of Cleveland over the weekend. 
    Twins, on the other hand, 4-9, and a whole bunch of series losses.  They just lost 5 straight before winning against Chicago today.  
    However, small sample sizes and great ticket deals!

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