10/01/08 12:50 AM EST
Twins fall in AL Central tiebreaker
Blackburn takes tough-luck loss against White Sox
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
Winner take all
|The results of the six previous one-game tiebreakers in MLB history.|
|Sept. 30, 2008||AL Central||White Sox 1, Twins 0|
|Oct. 1, 2007||NL Wild Card||Rockies 9, Padres 8, 13 innings|
|Oct. 4, 1999||NL Wild Card||Mets 5, Reds 0|
|Sept. 28, 1998||NL Wild Card||Cubs 5, Giants 3|
|Oct. 2, 1995||AL West||Mariners 9, Angels 1|
|Oct. 6, 1980||NL West||Astros 7, Dodgers 1|
|Oct. 2, 1978||AL East||Yankees 5, Red Sox 4|
On a 2-2 pitch from Blackburn, Thome got his first changeup of the evening and blasted the hanging pitch deep to center field. The 461-foot homer landed beyond the greenery in center field, onto the concourse area."I think tonight kind of sums up the whole season for me," Blackburn said. "I make one mistake and it ends up out of the park. It's kind of been the way the year has gone for me." Considering the way Blackburn carried them throughout his 6 1/3 innings, his teammates weren't left lamenting the one mistake, but rather their inability to help the rookie starter. "We couldn't ask him to do anything more," Mauer said of Blackburn. "He was just even-keeled the whole game. He gave us a great shot to win. We just couldn't get him any runs." Making the loss even tougher was that the Twins appeared to be in line to score the first run in the fifth. Michael Cuddyer put an end to Danks' no-hit bid by leading off the inning with a double to left field. A deep fly ball to center field by Delmon Young put Cuddyer just 90 feet away from home plate. Brendan Harris followed with a flyout to shallow center field and the Twins made the call to test veteran center fielder Ken Griffey's arm. Running on a left foot that is still healing from the fracture he suffered on Aug. 8, Cuddyer took off for home. Griffey's throw home bounced twice and the second short-hop went straight into the glove of catcher A.J. Pierzynski. But even a hard collision, with Cuddyer lowering his shoulder into Pierzynski, wasn't enough to jar the ball loose. And the only real offensive threat by the Twins was over. "I knew the only play I was going to have, if it was a good throw, was to run him over," Cuddyer said. "I went for his arm, just to try and drive the ball loose. Unfortunately, the ball was stuck. He said he didn't even feel it in his glove. ... That just goes to show it kind of just stuck there." From there, the Twins would get their only other hit in the eighth on Harris' one-out single to left. That threat ended quickly with Nick Punto grounding into a double play. For a team that scored the third-highest single-season run total in club history, it was difficult to accept that one run was the difference. Gardenhire met with his team shortly after the loss, telling them how proud he was of them and their ability to battle all season long despite the harsh way it ended. "We had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of really tough moments for us," Gardenhire said. "A lot of walk-off losses that are really, really tough to handle for any baseball team. This young baseball team competed and kept bouncing back. We had some good moments, we had some ugly moments. If you look back at it, it was a heck of a performance by a very young baseball team. "We put ourselves in a situation where we had a chance to win the division tonight, and we lost by one." As the Twins struggled to stomach the loss, it might not have been easy to see all those positives. But the hope is that this moment might provide a little extra motivation for when the club arrives in Fort Myers, Fla., in February for the start of another year. "The guys aren't happy just getting here," Morneau said. "We want to improve on this and it's the first step of getting toward the playoffs with all the new guys that we have. I think this team showed a lot and hopefully we'll be even better for it next year."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.