Ever hear of the old "K.C. Lou"? It's the hardball lexicon to describe a first-and-third scenario with the shortstop cutting off a catcher's throw to second on a steal, designed to catch the runner on third off guard. With just 10 games left to play in a suddenly sizzling September playoff chase, our Bread Basket needs to metaphorically step before that toss, and find the Central-leading Tigers dumfounded between third and home.
With wins in nine of our last 10, the Twins are now baseball's hottest team at a time when the MLB regular season stage is most illuminated. With Detroit's 6-5 win over the Indians last night, the Boys trail the Tigers by 3 in the division, with a four-game set (Monday-Thursday) awaiting the two clubs next week in Motown. While the Tigers play three in Chicago this weekend (against whom they're 7-5 on the season), the Twins have a really sneaky series at Kansas City, facing a Royals club versus whom we've taken seven of 12 on the year.
Before looking forward to the K.C. weekend, it's worthy of note herein that the Twins' nascent heat has the potential to be the stuff of September legend. A la the 2007 Colorado Rockies that won 14 of their last 15 to force a Wild Card playoff (which they won), the Twins have tapped into a near-mystical Indian Summer that defies convention. Consider that in taking the last two in our sweep of the Chi Sox, the Boys sported two starting pitchers with a (now) combined five career wins. In addition, with Morneau and Span down, our lineup offered only two .300-hitting regulars, no 30 home run sluggers, zero 90 RBI batsmen, and nobody with more than 15 steals. Offensively: Mauer's MVP candidacy, Cuddyer's crazy September, and Kubel's consistency proudly don the stat sheet. Beyond that? Fill the lineup card with "Smoke," "Mirror," "Duct Tape," "Tolbert," "Super Glue," and the magical autumn elixir known only as "Hot Streak."
There's something in the water now. Drink it in full, and enjoy your Twins vs. Royals capsule:
Tonight: Carl Pavano (12-11, 4.82 ERA) vs. Robinson Tejeda (4-1, 2.94)
This likely serves as Pavano's biggest start since the close of 2004, when he was a Marlin swimming for a bulky free agent contract (that he ultimately inked with the Yanks in '05, worth nearly $40 million). Pavano has played Jester to the Royals this season, going 2-3 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts. Five K.C. batsmen hit .333 or better versus the righty.
The afore-noted "sneaky series" immediately comes to the forefront in Tejeda, who has pulled something of a Duensing in '09. After sporting a 4.07 in 29 relief appearances, he has thrived as a late-season starter, going 3-0 in four September starts, with a barely visible ERA on 0.81 in that span. Active Twins are just 6-for-38 (.157) against him, however he has yet to make it through seven innings -- getting to dude early will prove key.
Tomorrow night: Scott Baker (13-9, 4.43) vs. Lenny DiNardo (0-1, 8.22)
Baker's 4-0 August hasn't translated to September success (insert: "sneaky" again), as evidenced by his 1-2 month with a bulky 4.37 ERA. He's 1-1 against K.C. in '09, although on a more sanguine note, Baker is 2-1 with a 2.84 lifetime at Kaufman Stadium.
DiNardo is, in brief: DiTerrible. The journeyman lefty has made three starts for the Royals (all this month), having accrued a pitching line of: 15.1 innings pitched, 26 hits, 10 walks, and 14 earned runs. The guy doesn't surrender many long balls, but look for base runners to be prevalent.
Sunday afternoon: Francisco Liriano (5-12, 5.75) vs. Zach Greinke (15-8, 2.08)
Liriano's start isn't a lock yet, however Gardy was quoted in yesterday's Trib as saying that: "I think Frankie is the most likely choice . . . Start him and go from there. I like that idea. I think Frankie would like that idea, too." Fulfillment of that preview would usurp Jeff Manship's "place" in the rotation and give Liriano his first start since 8/17. In his 5.2 innings of relief work since, he's offered up a pedestrian line of: 6 hits, 3 earned runs and three walks. If the "Corner Store" desires to ever again be monikered as "The Franchise", this would be a fine place to start.
Not that the task will be easy. See Greinke's ERA? That's no misprint; to finish the year with said mark would represent the American League's lowest ERA since Pedro Martinez' 1.74 back in 2000. Greinke is essentially one fine start away from deservedly winning the AL Cy Young. The fella has tossed a truly impressive 25 Quality Starts in his 31 outings to date. He has yet to face the Twins in '09.