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09/28/08 9:01 PM EST
Twins to watch Monday's game together
White Sox-Tigers makeup contest could decide AL Central
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire spent Saturday night flipping channels between football games on the television and trying his best to avoid the White Sox-Indians game, one that he knew was going to impact his team's playoff chances. But on Monday, it will be quite a different story. This time, when the White Sox host the Tigers for a makeup of a regular-season rainout -- a contest that will decide whether the Twins will have to head to Chicago for a one-game tiebreaker -- the skipper will be glued to the TV. And he won't be the only one. The rest of his team will be sitting and watching right alongside him. The Twins will gather as a team at the Metrodome on Monday afternoon to watch the contest. The game will be aired live on MLB.TV. The impact of the game is quite clear for the Twins, who head into that contest with a half-game lead over Chicago in the division. If the White Sox lose to the Tigers, the Twins will celebrate another American League Central title. But if the White Sox win, Minnesota will need to go to Chicago and win a tiebreaker game at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday at 6:37 p.m. CT to continue playing into October. "Monday is going to be the first time we are all going to be big Detroit Tigers fans," closer Joe Nathan said. "We're all going to root for them." The Twins' situation of having to sit around and wait at least one extra day to determine their playoff fate is unique -- even for a team that won a division title in 2006 on the last day of the season without having ever previously been in first place. "It feels weird," Denard Span said. "It's the last game of the season, and we're in first place by a half-game. But at the same time, we've got to see what happens tomorrow." Although it's a new twist to their playoff hopes, the Twins found irony in that the situation is somewhat similar to what they experienced in 2006. The Twins had already clinched a Wild Card spot that year with about six days to go, but they had to root on the Royals over the Tigers during the final three days of the season in order to clinch another AL Central championship. Kansas City came through for the Twins that year, sweeping the Tigers in Detroit to give Minnesota another division title. This time around, they are cheering for Detroit to take just one contest against Chicago, which comes after the Twins couldn't win more than one contest vs. the Royals this past weekend at home. "It's like the twilight zone," Nick Punto said. "The same teams always seem to be there. Kansas City is involved. Detroit is involved. It feels like '06, it really does. But it's a good position to be in." The Tigers will send right-hander Freddy Garcia to the mound for Monday's contest, while right-hander Gavin Floyd will get the start for the White Sox. Chicago is very familiar with Garcia, the pitcher who was one of the keys to the club's World Series championship in 2005. Although it's an extra game for the Tigers that does not necessarily hold any significance for the ballclub, Gardenhire believes they will have plenty of motivation to capture a win. "I think Jimmy Leyland will want to win that game as much as anybody," Gardenhire said of the Tigers skipper. "No one wants to lay down, they'd love to be a spoiler. If you are making a team stay an extra day to play a game, I would imagine they ought to be irritated enough to take a whack at it." If the White Sox do end up winning the contest, the Twins are set to board their chartered flight to Chicago at around 8 p.m. in preparation for Tuesday's tiebreaker game at U.S. Cellular Field. "We are just going to prepare like we're going to Chicago," Nathan said. "That's all we can do. We'll just come all packed up like we already are, ready to get on a plane. If something else happens, that's great." The hope of all the Twins is that they will instead still be celebrating in their home clubhouse at the time their plane is supposed to depart. Should the Tigers defeat the White Sox on Monday, the Twins have already determined they will host a division-clinching party at the Metrodome. And even though the Twins won't be coming off a game of their own, Gardenhire didn't imagine the celebration would be tame. "I tell you what, if [the White Sox] lose, it won't be subdued," Gardenhire said. "We'll have a little bit of fun here. These guys have earned it out there. But we'll see what happens. If that doesn't happen tomorrow, we're going to go to Chicago and try to get after those guys there."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.