Preview: Tigers-Twins Series Is Indeed Big, but Keep It in Perspective

George McGinnieCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 24:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on August 24, 2009 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.   (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The first place Tigers meet the second place Twins at the HHH Metrodome this weekend. It promises to be an exciting and tense three days of baseball for fans of both teams.

But did I fall asleep and miss two weeks of the season or what?

Detroit Free Press headline: "Tigers-Twins series could determine who wins Central"

Is that the football philosophy or what? High school has nine games. Each is really important. College typically has 12. Lose one and you lose your national title hopes. The NFL has 16 games. A bad week is not going to sink your team, but it's still a large chunk of your season.

Baseball is not football.

I'm not going to downplay it and say it doesn't matter what happens this weekend. Because it does. But this series is not for the division title.

In case you didn't notice, there's still two weeks of baseball after this series. In case you didn't notice, the Tigers will leave Minnesota in first place no matter what happens, and host Minnesota for four games the final week of the season.

For the Tigers, this series is "really want to win a game." For the Twins, it very well might be must win. If the Tigers go into Minneapolis and win three games, the division is probably settled. The magic number would be seven with two weeks of baseball remaining. The champagne could probably be ordered and stored at that point.

If the Tigers win two games, the magic number is nine, and there are still four games remaining at Comerica Park, where the Tigers are a very good baseball team (when not playing the Royals in September.)

In either of those scenarios, the Twins are climbing a very steep hill the rest of the year without a safety harness.

I know, Tigers fans seem to have this fear of the world collapsing. I'm not sure why that is. Too many times watching the Lions collapse after Thanksgiving? (Keep in mind, this is in the past when the Lions would tease their fans by starting off 6-3 or 7-2; not tease their fans that they might actually win a game.)

Too many times seeing U of M look like it was on a national championship path only to be tripped up? I don't know.

I know it doesn't have to do with the game of baseball, because the Tigers haven't been good enough at the sport for so long, there are few memorable collapses to hearken back to.

This series is big. Maybe even huge. It has the potential to be ingrained in your mind for years to come.

But when it ends, don't be surprised if an even more important set of games replaces it in the future.

This series could decide the AL Central title. But it probably won't.

Scouting the series

Tonight, 8 p.m.—RHP Rick Porcello (13-8, 4.21 ERA) vs. LHP Brian Duensing (3-1, 3.53)

Duensing has pitched really well since being named a starter, but has only six career starts under his belt. The Tigers should be pretty good against left-handed pitching but have not been lately.

Duensing has been pretty good in his appearances against Detroit, all in relief.

Porcello has allowed too many fly balls the past two games and has to keep the ball down, but he's been pretty successful the past six weeks.

Porcello allowed four runs in four innings in the Metrodome in July, but shut the Twins out in Comerica in May.

Saturday, 4 p.m., FOX (tv schedule)—RHP Justin Verlander (16-8, 3.34 ERA) vs. RHP Carl Pavano (12-11, 4.91 ERA)

For some reason, Pavano shuts down the Tigers frequently. Not just shuts them down. Dominates them. There's really no reason for it.

Will the streak finally end? If not, it's probably good that the Tigers' ace is taking the mound. In the past, he's been able to rebound from a poor showing and take the team on his back.

That will obviously be important for him to do again. He pitched well in his last trip to the Metrodome (2.84 ERA) and generally does well against the Twins (3.49 ERA 2006-2009).

Sunday, 2 p.m.—LHP Nate Robertson (1-2, 5.35 ERA) vs. RHP Scott Baker (13-8, 4.35 ERA)

Well, you know Tigers fans aren't feeling good about this. Robertson left with an injured groin his last start and missed his go in the rotation because of it.

Before that, he had good results his previous two starts since returning from elbow surgery.

Baker is a real good pitcher and doesn't issue a lot of base runners. Strangely, he does better on the road than at home. His ERA vs. the Tigers this season is 9.58, nonetheless. He gave up five runs one start, six the other.

It's questionable whether it tells us much, but Robertson's 2006-2008 ERA vs. the Twins was 3.87, 4.07 in the dome.


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