Well here we are, about to kick off the huge series against the White Sox, needing a sweep to put the Twins in command. Winning two would help, but would leave a lot to chance. Granted, the Twins would be in ok shape going up against the not-as-hapless-as-I-would-like Royals for three down 1.5 games with the Sox having to play Cleveland, including a likely last game of the season matchup against Cliff Lee. That being said, if they can't put it all together and take all three games in this must win series, I'm not so sure they even deserve to get in the playoffs.
Game 1: Scott Baker vs. Javier Vazquez
Advantage to the Twins here. Don't forget that Vazquez is a high quality pitcher though, and could definitely hold the Twins down. He's posting a 1.30 WHIP this season to go with an ERA of 4.32. The negative here is that his WHIP is as high as it is mainly because of a high walk rate (to go with a high K rate). Given that the Twins don't walk much, they could end up struggling for base runners, and, as such, runs. He's also been pitching pretty well lately, although not his last time out, so with a little luck he'll be off his game.
Baker has somehow acquired a reputation for being a "Big Game" pitcher, although I'm not entirely certain how that happened. He's going to need to live up to it tonight against a very good Sox lineup, even without Quentin. He'll have to keep the ball in the park, and I'm thinking he'll do it. I'm predicting a Twins victory here, keeping hope alive. Baker goes 8 strong, and Nathan has a shaky, but effective ninth for a 2-1 Twins victory.
Game 2: Mark Buehrle vs. Nick Blackburn
This matchup sucks. Buehrle has historically been very good against Minnesota, and since he's lefty Gardy will probably sit down Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel against him. The good news is that he's struggled against the Twins in two of his three starts against them this season, but in his one good start he completely shut them down. He's hot right now, with four straight excellent outings.
Blackburn started strong, but has tailed off in a big way lately, try not to remember his last start when he didn't even get out of the second inning. I'm hoping he can dig down for one last big time start, but I don't see him getting through more than six. Handing it over to the bullpen is not a good idea, and that's where this one falls apart. Blackburn keeps it close, but the bullpen ruins it all once again as the Sox take this one 8-2.
Game 3: Gavin Floyd vs. Kevin Slowey
I'll be at this game, so history would tell us that the Sox will roll. I'm counting on Slowey to not do that. He's been the team's best pitcher this season, and his two shutouts were nothing short of masterpieces. Up until his last outing, he had been on a roll and hopefully can keep it up.
He'll have to against Floyd. Floyd is probably the Sox best pitcher, but he's not all that dominant and the Twins can definitely get to him. Not that they have this year, but I still think they can. This one is going to be close, and will end up being a 3-2 win for somebody. Too tough to call, but if I have to, I'd say the Sox take it and the season ends in flames.