Tigers, Twins set for showdown in Minnesota

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With Minnesota completing its three-game sweep of the Royals and Detroit salvaging the finale of a series against the White Sox, the AL Central race ended in a tie, forcing a one-game playoff scheduled for Tuesday.
The ultimate winners in the scenario would seem to be the Yankees, who can look forward to facing a fatigued club to start the ALDS. If there was still any doubt at all, they’re now certain to pick the series beginning on Wednesday, rather than Thursday, to give their opponents even less time to recover.
The Tigers were hoping to have the division all wrapped up by Saturday, but since they failed to take care of business, they were forced to go to ace Justin Verlander on Sunday and now they’ll use Rick Porcello on Tuesday. If they beat the Twins, they’ll still have the ability to have Verlander follow Edwin Jackson and start Games 2 and 5 of the ALDS, but he could be an awfully tired ace. Verlander added to his major league-high pitch total by 120 on Sunday. It’s the fourth straight start that he’s thrown at least 120 pitches, and he hasn’t made a start on more than four days’ rest since Aug. 30.
The Twins may be at just as much of a disadvantage. They don’t rely as much on their top three starters as the Tigers, but they’re going to be stuck using their nominal ace, Scott Baker, on Tuesday. That means he’ll be available to start just once against the Yankees. Nick Blackburn, who came up big in outdueling Zack Greinke on Saturday, is lined up for the Game 1 start now. Either Carl Pavano or Brian Duensing would pitch Game 2. Duensing has performed better than Pavano and has the advantage of being a lefty, but given the confidence that manager Ron Gardenhire showed in Pavano by pitching him on short rest Sunday, it seems likely that the veteran will be the choice.
Tuesday’s matchup of Porcello and Baker should be a good one. Porcello got the nod over Jackson, who could have made the start on three days’ rest. Jackson, though, has struggled in four of his last five starts, whereas Porcello only seems to be getting stronger. The rookie impressed against the Twins in Tuesday’s doubleheader, limiting Minnesota to one run in 6 1/3 innings. He’s 14-9 with a 4.04 ERA.
Baker overcame an 0-4 start to finish 15-9 with a 4.36 ERA. He had a 3.79 ERA in his final 28 starts. Against the Tigers, he was 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA. That win, though, came Thursday, when he allowed just an unearned run over five innings.
So, the starters seem pretty evenly matched. The Twins would seem to have the advantage of a less weary pen, particularly after they were able to give Joe Nathan the day off on Sunday. They’ll also finally be able to give Joe Mauer a real day off on Monday. Being that they have the home-field advantage and are the hotter team, they have to be favored to win. The Tigers, though, do have a nice track record against Baker, particularly Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen.

Sean Manaea thought he was throwing a one hitter

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Tossing a no-hitter doesn’t just require physical excellence; it’s a mental feat, too. Which is why it may have helped that Athletics hurler Sean Manaea didn’t realize his no-hitter was intact until the eighth inning of Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Red Sox.

While the first few innings passed uneventfully, Sandy Leon managed to reach base in the fifth inning after skying a ball to shallow center field. It wasn’t a clean hit, of course — shortstop Marcus Semien dropped the ball on the catch and was promptly charged with an error to preserve Manaea’s no-hit bid.

That was news to Manaea, who told reporters that he didn’t realize he still had a no-hitter going until he saw the scoreboard in the eighth inning. “Until the eighth, I thought it just like was a one-hitter,” he said. “I looked up in the eighth and saw there were still zeros and was like, whoa, weird.” The delay of that realization may have calmed his nerves as he continued to blank the best team in baseball, eventually capping his 108-pitch, 10-strikeout effort in the ninth.

A few fun facts about the feat:

  • Manaea’s no-hitter was the 12th of its kind in franchise history, dating back to Weldon Henley’s no-no against the St. Louis Browns in 1905.
  • The most recent pitcher to do so for the A’s was fellow left-hander Dallas Braden, who completed the club’s second-ever perfect game against the Rays in 2010. Surprisingly, Manaea managed to make even more efficient use of his pitch count than Braden did during his perfecto; he fired just 108 pitches against the Red Sox, a hair under the 109 pitches used by Braden against the Rays.
  • Manaea himself, however, is just the seventh Athletics pitcher (and third lefty) to toss a no-hitter. Legendary southpaw Vida Blue pitched two no-nos for the team, including a combined no-hitter that also featured Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers against the 1975 California Angels.
  • Until Saturday, the Red Sox had the second-longest streak without being no-hit in the majors, at 3,987 games… a record that was only eclipsed by the A’s own streak.
  • With a 17-2 record and .895 winning percentage, the Red Sox were the most successful team to be no-hit in major-league history. Prior to Saturday’s loss, they averaged 6.4 runs per game and had yet to be shut out by any team in 2018.
  • Since 1908, 46 no-hitters have been pitched against AL East teams: four against the Blue Jays, five against the Rays, eight against the Yankees, 13 against the Red Sox and 16 against the Orioles. Mariners lefty Chris Bosio was the last pitcher to no-hit the Red Sox, a feat he accomplished almost exactly 25 years ago on April 22, 1993.