Goin' to roam in the dome before coming home
We’ve come to that point. Just three games left and one final full-length regular season post. The Royals already closed out their home schedule and now they begin their final series of the regular season inside the Metrodome.
It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere in the dome as both teams are in a race of sorts. The Twins and the Royals hold leads in their respective races and control their own destiny, let’s control the destiny of this post and go Around the Horn…
To set things up right, here’s a quick team profile for the series:
The Twins: They are 5-5 over their last 10 and 8-7 in their last 15, boasting a current four-game winning streak. However, the three most important victories of the season – to this point – were their last three.
Their sweep of Chicago took them from 2.5 games behind the White Sox to a half-game lead for the divisional crown. Minnesota’s magic number is four. That means any combination of four White Sox losses and wins for the Twins gets them into the playoffs without a tiebreaker or a make-up game (Chicago has played one less than Minnesota). Chicago is back at home playing out the season versus the Indians. A sweep by Cleveland means the Twins need just one win over the weekend. Likewise, if the Sox sweep their series and the Twins lose one game, Chicago is in. If the two teams are separated by a half game, the White Sox have to make up their rainout on Monday. Should the teams tie, they will play a tiebraker on Tuesday in Chicago. The Twins have been playing playoff baseball for about a week and they are tough in the dome, owning a .667 winning percentage at home.
The Royals: They’ve been as tough as any team in the Majors this month. After sweeping the Tigers under the rug for the third time this season,
the Boys in Blue are riding a three-game winning streak and are 8-2 in their last 10 and have taken 11 of their last 13. September has been good to the Royals who have posted a 16-7 record. It’s their highest win total for the final month since the 1985 World Championship team won 18. The Royals race has much less riding on it, but its become big news over the last few weeks. The team’s goal is to finish out of last place for the first time since 2003. As it stands, Detroit is half a game back, and would only have to play the missed date if the Sox are within a half game of the Twins. Without taking into account their possible game against Chicago on Monday, the magic number for the Royals and Detroit is also four. So scoreboard watching is a must this weekend as the Tigers welcomed Tampa Bay to Comerica yesterday, winning the first of a four-game series.
It will be a playoff atmosphere (in more ways than one) with large crowds on hand in the Metrodome. For their crucial series with the White Sox, the Twins hosted 120,952 fans. They drew no less than 35,000 each game and posted consecutive games with 42,000-plus.
So there it is, the final showdown of the season. The red-hot Royals versus the streaking Twins. Minnesota holds the season edge with a 11-4 record and a 4-2 mark in the Metrodome. But they haven’t faced the September Royals, featuring the second-highest team batting average in the Majors (.299), the second lowest ERA in the American League (3.71) and the Majors’ second lowest opponents’ batting average (.237). Other notable September figures include: David DeJesus leading the A.L. in hits (33), while hitting .388 (fifth in the A.L.) and he’s tied for fifth in triples (2). He’s ninth in on-base percentage (.443). Alberto Callaspo is also tied for fifth in triples, as is Mike Aviles, who is second in runs (19). Jose Guillen is tied for fourth in doubles (8). Ryan Shealy’s seven homers are tied for the A.L. lead and his .661 slugging percentage is fifth-best.
This team also knows a thing or two about playing well in the final series of the season and keeping divisional crown hopefuls from achieving their goals. The title spoiler is bittersweet, but the Royals played it in 2006 when the Tigers needed one win for the Central Championship. Instead, the Royals swept them and the Twins snuck by.
Mitch Maier had a career night two days ago. His bases-clearing triple – just the second extra base hit of his career – helped the Royals in producing their biggest inning of the season during the fifth, when they plated seven (it tied their other seven-run inning on July 3 at Baltimore during the sixth).
Maier joined Mark Teahen as the only Royals to get two hits in a single inning this season. In fact, Teahen joined that club only a week prior versus Seattle. Previous to Teahen, the Royals had not accomplished the feat since Tony Pena, Jr. did it in 2007.
Maier, a Petoskey, Michigan native, had at least one fan in the crowd on Wednesday. His father stood up from his seat to cheer his son after the big triple – he was the lone fan in his section applauding the hit. Maier graduated from Novi High School – a suburb of Detroit, approximately 35 minutes from downtown.
Maier has played in 12 games since returning from the three facial fractures he suffered in August. While his average is not high in his return, his production has been there. In games when he’s registered at least four at-bats, Maier has five hits, four runs and five RBI. His three RBI night on Wednesday was a new career high. The only double and triple during his career have come since returning on September 13.
David DeJesus’ 13-game hitting streak came to an end on Wednesday. He tweaked his right hip flexor and was taken out of the game after one at-bat…
Alberto Callaspo’s career high 16-game streak is still alive and he is likely to make his return this weekend…Alex Gordon has hit in 10 straight, including all nine since returning from the Disabled List…Mike Aviles leads all rookies in batting average with just three to play (.322)…DeJesus, who may not see playing time this weekend, leads the Majors in batting with runners in scoring position (.419)…Kyle Davies will have his last start tonight, looking to build on two lights-out performaces during his last two starts in which he compiled a 15-inning scoreless streak, a season-high for a KC starter…The Royals pitchers have had 10 quality starts in their last 11 games.
I am going to be a tad bit selfish right now, something I have never tried to do while writing and covering the team for this blog. But it was suggested to me to be a little self-indulgent with my final entry (by our team President Dan Glass, no less). I am going to “out” myself as one of the team’s bloggers to say good-bye (don’t worry, the blog isn’t going anywhere, just one of its writers). I have taken a position at the National Baseball Hall of Fame (and I’m hoping I can blog there too).
From my days on K Crew, shooting T-Shirts and running in the Hot Dog Derby to working under the great people in my department, my time with the team has been amazing. It has been a privilege working on Around the Horn all summer and I’ve gotten the chance to meet some amazing people and tell the story of this team each and everyday. It’s been a lot of work but to sound a bit cheesy, it’s been a labor of love (for this team).
Thanks for reading. (Again, please keep checking the site. This is not the end of ATH, just the end for one, singular writer. In fact, I will even have one more post sometime next week. It’s one last Touch ’em All interview for the 2008 season.)
– Trevor Hayes, Media Relations Assistant (that’s my K Crew picture from 2007)
Couple quick notes: Just one more FSN-KC game left, with coverage starting today at 6:30 pm. Tomorrow is the Royals final televised game of 2008, with a 2:55 start scheduled on FOX.
Today’s lineup: Check back later today…and all weekend…Go Royals!
Today’s Official Game Notes.