With a second consecutive postseason berth already locked up, the Minnesota Twins begin their final homestand of the season on Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers focused on trying to secure home-field advantage for next week's best-of-three wild-card series.
Minnesota (33-22) currently holds the No. 4 seed in the American League, 1 1/2 games ahead of the No. 5 seed New York Yankees (31-23). And it's fair to say the Twins want every advantage possible heading into the postseason, especially if they play the hard-hitting Yankees.
Minnesota has endured 16 consecutive postseason losses dating back to a 2-0 victory over the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2004 AL Division Series. New York rebounded to win the next three games of that best-of-five series, kicking off an amazing 13-game postseason win streak over the Twins, including all three games in last season's AL Division Series by a combined score of 23-7.
The Twins have the best home record in baseball (21-5), just ahead of the Yankees (21-7) putting even more significance on a strong finish. After the two-game series with Detroit (22-30), which is five games out of the final wild-card spot, Minnesota finishes the regular season with a three-game series against the red-hot Cincinnati Reds.
Minnesota still holds out hopes of catching the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox (34-20).
"We were talking about it with (Michael) Pineda (Saturday) after the game," Twins pitcher Jose Berrios said after throwing six shutout innings in a 4-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday night. "He said, 'Yeah, we're celebrating, and we won, but we want to start the first series at home, and also, we still have a chance to win the division.' That's what I brought tonight with my mind out there. Just keep doing my thing."
Minnesota hasn't announced its starter for the Tuesday night opener but has Kenta Maeda (5-1, 2.52 ERA) lined up for the Wednesday night series finale. Rookie left-hander Tarik Skubal (1-3, 6.17) will start the opener for the Tigers.
It will be just the seventh major league start for Skubal but his third against the Twins. He picked up his first and only major league win against Minnesota on Aug. 29 in Detroit, allowing two runs, including a tape-measure home run by Nelson Cruz, on three hits over five innings in a 4-2 victory in the second game of a doubleheader.
Skubal was even more impressive in his second start against the Twins on Sept. 5 in Minneapolis, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and allowing one run on two hits and two walks over six innings while striking out six. Minnesota rallied to win 4-3 on a walk-off infield single by Byron Buxton.
In two starts against the Twins, Skubal is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA, allowing just five hits in 11 innings while striking out eight and walking two.
Skubal comes in off a 4-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. He struck out a career-high eight batters and allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and no walks over six innings. He yielded a two-run homer to Salvador Perez in the first inning and an RBI double to Perez in the sixth.
"He made two mistakes against a veteran, really good hitter, and unfortunately, that was the difference in the ballgame," catcher Eric Haase said. "But he threw the ball really well tonight."
--Field Level Media