Monday, September 24, 2012

Backing their way to the top

White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham leaves the
field as the Kansas City Royals celebrate a 4-3 win
on Thursday.
A week ago today the Chicago White Sox took a three-game lead on the Detroit Tigers, and I opined in the next day's post that it would be "mighty difficult" for the Tigers to make up that ground in what remained of the season.

Today the Sox have lost five in a row, and the only reason they're still in first place is that the lowly Twins swept Detroit in a doubleheader Sunday.

Matt Carson slides into Detroit catcher Alex Avila during
the fifth inning of Sunday's second game. Avila threw the
ball into right field, allowing the Twins to tie the
game. It was Detroit's second error of the inning.
One of Chicago and Detroit is going to win the American League Central title, and I'm not sure either really deserves to.  There probably weren't a lot of Minnesotans watching the Twins-Tigers game Sunday afternoon instead of the Vikings-49ers, but I was one — and Detroit put on such a ghastly display in the field in the sixth inning that the notion of the Tigers in the playoffs seems laughable.

The Twins plated five runs that inning. All were officially earned, but by my reckoning the Tigers gave the Twins five extra outs and about eight bases. They played one fly ball into a triple, another into a single, failed to turn a double play, turned another grounder into an infield hit, threw two wild pitches, and mistook a tag play for a force out.

Which provided one of my favorite quotes of the 2012 season, Tigers manager Jim Leyland on pitcher Brayan Villarreal thinking he had a force play at the plate on a wild pitch: "He's probably not an expert on the rule book, to be honest with you."

Chicago and Detroit are clearly better this year than Kansas City, Cleveland or the Twins, but whoever emerges from this death grip on mediocrity will be no more than the seventh best team in the league.

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