Twins plan to play hard with just pride at stake

BY foxsports • September 22, 2012

The Minnesota Twins have only pride at stake in their series against the Detroit Tigers.

While Detroit is trying to catch Chicago in the AL Central, the Twins will wake up Saturday 19 games behind the White Sox.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, though, expects his team's best effort as it plays out the string.

''Out of respect for the game, you go out and give them everything you have,'' Gardenhire said before the opener of a three-game set in Detroit was postponed by rain. ''This atmosphere here does lift you up a little bit.''

The Tigers gained ground in the playoff race hours after Friday night's washout, pulling within 1 1/2 games of Chicago when the White Sox lost 6-2 at the Los Angeles Angels. Detroit also moved within 5 1/2 games of Oakland for the second wild card.

The rainout will be made up Sunday night as part of a doubleheader.

Detroit will send Doug Fister (9-9) to the mound Saturday afternoon - not Rick Porcello, who was scheduled to start Friday night - and the Twins plan to stick with Samuel Deduno (6-4) in the series opener.

The Tigers will pitch Drew Smyly in one of Sunday's games and might have Max Scherzer available five days after his previous outing was cut short by a fatigued right shoulder. Minnesota will have Scott Diamond on the mound in the first game of the doubleheader and P.J. Walters in the nightcap.

A few hours before the scheduled start of Friday's game, Gardenhire and Twins first baseman Justin Morneau both said Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera should be voted AL MVP.

''I'm just tipping my hat to Cabrera, he's the best player in this league,'' Gardenhire said. ''He's going for a Triple Crown, that's an MVP season. His team is in a playoff hunt not solely dependent on him, but he's the reason they're in it right now.''

Cabrera leads the AL with a .333 batting average and 130 RBIs - with a relatively comfortable cushion in each category - and his 41 homers are one behind league leader Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers.

''I think he's the best hitter in the league,'' Gardenhire said. ''All-around power and the whole package - I don't think there's anybody that close to him.''

With a little less than two weeks left in the regular season, he has a legitimate shot to be baseball's first Triple Crown winner since 1967 when Boston's Carl Yastrzemski led with AL with a .326 batting average, 44 home runs and 121 RBIs.

Gardenhire discounts the statistical sabermetric approach that favors Los Angeles rookie Mike Trout over Cabrera in the MVP race.

''If you're going for the Triple Crown and you've got those numbers, you can saber all you want to,'' Gardenhire said. ''I know Trout is good, too. It doesn't make much sense to me to be arguing about this.''

Cabrera isn't really eager to talk about the hot topic because he's genuinely more interested in Detroit playing in consecutive postseasons, an accomplishment the franchise hasn't pulled off since the 1934-35 seasons.

''We need to focus on winning games,'' he said.

Cabrera acknowledged it has been awkward to hear the Comerica Park crowd chanting, ''M-V-P! M-V-P!'' when he has stepped to the plate recently.

''It's kind of weird for me,'' he said.

Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP, said Cabrera's chances will improve if he can help the Tigers catch Chicago.

''It would be an easier decision if Detroit gets into the playoffs,'' Morneau said.