MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -The playoff party plans in Minnesota are still on hold.
In a fitting conclusion to this slow-moving AL Central race, the Twins won their final scheduled game of the regular season
and stayed in first place - but were forced to cheer against the
Chicago White Sox
for another day.
''It's kind of an ongoing joke that it seems like nobody wanted to win the Central, so this is kind of probably the way it
should go down, going into a game tomorrow when the season's supposed to be over,'' closer
scattered four singles over seven shutout innings, pitching the Twins past the
Kansas City Royals
6-0 on Sunday to preserve their half-game lead over the
- who pushed the season into an extra day by beating Cleveland.
On Monday, Detroit visits Chicago for a makeup game. If the
(87-74) win, they'll host the Twins on Tuesday in a one-game playoff to determine the division title and the first-round opponent
for Tampa Bay.
The Twins were planning to gather at the Metrodome and become Tigers fans for a day, but they make it sound like it would
be an agonizing afternoon.
At worst, Chicago wins, and it's up to them to win the Central once and for all without any help. At best, they celebrate
in an empty stadium and get ready to fly to Florida for the division series against the Rays.
tried to put some lighthearted pressure on his
after the game.
''It's up to them. It's all on their shoulders now. I don't have to make a pitching move. I don't have to pinch hit anybody
tomorrow. It's all on Ozzie's butt, so go get 'em Ozzie and let's see what happens,'' he said.
Gardenhire was then asked if the circumstances would dictate a more subdued celebration than when the Twins won titles in
2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.
''I'm not going to sit here and tell you what's going to happen, but don't wear your good clothes,'' he said, smiling.
's two-run single and
's two-run triple gave Baker (11-4) some extra insurance, and
and Nathan finished the final two innings to give Minnesota an 88-74 record - far exceeding almost every forecast.
''Regardless of how it works out, I'm very proud of the team,'' said Baker, who matched a career high with nine strikeouts
and went 4-0 in his final six starts. ''We battled and won a lot more games than people thought we would. Despite the situation,
we should be very happy with how things have gone so far.''
As for Mauer? He went 2-for-5 to keep his average at .330 and has a four-point lead over Boston's
. If there's a tiebreaker game, Mauer would have to go 0-for-7 or worse to lose what would be his second AL batting title
in three seasons.
''Like I've always said, we're trying to do bigger things here. If we get to the playoffs and that happens, I'll be a happy
guy for sure,'' Mauer said.
Losses to the Royals the last two days took the luster out of an inspired three-game sweep of Chicago earlier in the week.
The Twins went 14-20 since Aug. 22. The Royals finished 75-87, though, their best record since 2003 thanks to an 18-8 mark
''It wasn't like we were playing terrible by any means,'' Nathan said. ''We were going up against some pretty good competition,
so hats off to them for showing a lot of character and not just playing out the end of the season but battling all the way
through 162 games.''
, brought up from the minors last month, made his seventh start for the Royals and needed 116 pitches to complete six innings.
They decided to rest
for the final week after he reached a career-most 202 1-3 innings. Greinke's performance this year, a 13-10 record, 3.47 ERA
and 183 strikeouts, gave Kansas City good reason to be optimistic about the 2009 rotation with him and
at the front.
Duckworth (3-3) walked four and hit two more, but he yielded only two hits - one of them an RBI double by
with two outs and a full count in the second inning. Two errors gave the Twins another run in the third.
''You'd like to finish up stronger mentally,'' Royals manager Trey Hillman said, ''but sometimes that happens especially when
you're in an atmosphere like this.''
Despite Sunday's loss, this was a fun way for the Royals to finish the season - having a hand in the pennant race even though
they couldn't win it themselves.
''I'd be lying saying you didn't get that extra adrenaline rush when you have that many fans out there going crazy in big
situations,'' Duckworth said. ''Good fun time. I just wish we could've gotten the 'W.'''
Notes: Mauer established career highs for games caught (134), games played (145) and RBIs (85). ...
went 0-for-3 with two walks for Minnesota, finishing 3-for-23 on the homestand and in an 6-for-38 slump to finish the regular
season. He sent a career high with 76 walks, including 16 intentional. ... Kansas City 1B
was replaced by
in the bottom of the fourth because of tightness in his left hamstring. ... The Royals close the 2009 season here, too. That'll
be the final baseball series in the Metrodome's 28-year history scheduled for next Oct. 2-4.