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Down The Line

October 01, 2006|Tim Brown

A Few Minutes in ...

Ron Gardenhire's Head

Here were the options for the Twins manager, as his ballclub stood going into the weekend:

A) Open the playoffs in the Metrodome, where pop-ups disappear, your tens of thousands of fans scream for, like, hours straight, and your squad has the best record in baseball.

B) Open the playoffs at Yankee Stadium, where if Twins fans screamed they would divulge their loyalties, causing them to disappear somewhere in the Bronx, against a team with three times your payroll, and that knocked you out of the postseason twice in the previous three years.

With the playoffs assured but the American League Central title and postseason home-field advantage at stake, it appeared a certainty that the division race -- Tigers or Twins -- would come down to today, Tigers at home against the Royals, Twins at home against the White Sox. If they tied at the top of the division, the Tigers, because they won 11 of 19 games against the Twins, would be the champion.

Gardenhire's decision: With Johan Santana (12-0, 2.19 earned-run average in 17 home starts) rested and available, Scott Baker (2-4, 6.80 in eight home starts) gets the ball for regular-season game 162, Santana for division series Game 1.

"You don't sleep at night when you start getting into those scenarios," Gardenhire said. "Those aren't fun ones. It'd be fun for our fans to see if we could go down to the last day and try to win it, but I think the preference there, if you're in the playoffs, Santana should be your No. 1 guy and come around again. At least have an opportunity to pitch twice.

"Tough decision, you hope it doesn't come down to that. And we'll do everything we can to run a pitcher out there to try to win that ballgame too. I think you still have to set Johan up. That's just my opinion, and I've talked to a few people about it. No one has any very good answers for me on protocol."

Bats and Pieces

It seemed less like the Dodgers saved their postseason lives because of a flair for dramatic moments, and more like the dramatic moments dragged them along. ...

The Marlins-Girardi-Beinfest-Loria crisis is beautiful. Owner Jeffrey Loria insists on hiring a guy who has never managed before, then is shocked to discover the guy will sometimes act as though he has never managed before. ...

There are a lot of numbers involved, but rest assured Ned Colletti won't ever have to explain his rationale for trading away Antonio Perez. Perez clung to the Athletics' roster all season and through 98 at-bats (Welcome to the American League, AP!) on Friday had 10 hits (a .102 batting average) and 44 strikeouts. To put that into more searing perspective, last season with the Dodgers Perez had 11 hits in a span of four days in May. ...

Early in the season, Brad Penny revived a split-fingered fastball that, rightfully wary of the violence on his elbow, he hadn't thrown since pre-biceps injury. As he gradually regained the touch on his curveball, he dumped the splitter, and for the last couple of months hasn't been able to keep hitters off his fastball, even at 97 mph. Might be time to break out the splitter again. ...

When Tony La Russa tried to squeeze three more outs out of Chris Carpenter on Tuesday night, a sweating, flailing Carpenter was struck for four runs and the Cardinals lost to the Padres. The next night, Bruce Bochy pitched Cla Meredith for the sixth time in seven days, Albert Pujols picked out something fat, and the Padres lost to the Cardinals. Proving, again, that managing your pitching staff is the toughest part of the job, especially this time of year, and no one gets out unharmed.

One More Thing From ... Todd Jones

The Tigers closer, summarizing the season amid champagne splatters and beer barrages for the Detroit Free Press: "Eighty percent of the season we were beating teams' butts every night, and we didn't know why. Then we would lose games and we didn't know why. Now we have a chance to go to the playoffs."

The end.


-- Tim Brown

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