Royals
Twins
0 - 6 Final
  for this game

Baker strong as Twins maintain AL Central lead

Sep 28, 2008 - 11:42 PM By Jon Avise PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The Minnesota Twins clubhouse printed up t-shirts at the beginning of the 2008 season that across the back read, "162-plus." Now, six months and 162 games later, the Twins may need that plus if they're to play October baseball for the fifth time in seven years.

Scott Baker yielded four hits in seven scoreless innings as the Minnesota Twins blanked the Kansas City Royals, 6-0, Sunday at the Metrodome, ensuring themselves at least a tie for the American League Central crown and a possible one-game playoff Tuesday in Chicago.

The Twins entered game No. 162 one-half game up on the White Sox, who were playing Cleveland simultaneously.

Baker (11-4) tied a career-high with nine strikeouts in a clutch performance on the final day of the regular season, helping Minnesota match Chicago's 5-1 win and retain their slim division lead.

"(Baker) was unbelievable on a big stage," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We needed that desperately ... Now we get to wait and see what happens."

The 27-year-old righthander - who split the preceding three seasons between the major leagues and Class AAA - has become a stable, veteran force in the youthful Twins starting rotation.

Sunday was his second consecutive solid start in a critical late-season game. In the first of a key three-game set with the White Sox last Wednesday, Baker allowed only one run over seven innings.

"I guess as far as (being) a veteran goes, it's just by default," Baker said. "We just don't have guys with a lot of experience. But there's no reason at any given time that one of these other (starting pitchers) can't step up."

Brandon Duckworth (3-3) suffered the loss, allowing two runs - one earned - in six innings.

Jose Mijares pitched the eighth and Joe Nathan worked a perfect ninth for the Twins, shutting down the Royals in a non-save situation.

Minnesota's win means Chicago (87-74) will now play a make-up game Monday afternoon at home against Detroit. Should the White Sox win, they would host the Twins (88-74) in a one-game playoff to decide the Central Division.

"Obviously we would've liked to celebrate today after a win like this," said Joe Mauer, who went 2-for-5 with a triple and two RBI and retained his lead in the race for the AL batting title. "But if we celebrate - whenever it is - I'll be happy."

A Chicago loss Monday would give Minnesota its fifth division title of the decade.

"We're in a pretty good position here," Gardenhire said.

First, Minnesota needed to take care of business on Sunday, no easy task against a Royals team that had taken the first two games of the series and had gone 18-7 in September heading into the regular season finale.

The Twins stranded a pair in the first, then broke through with the first run of the game an inning later. Denard Span looped a two-out double to left to plate Nick Punto, who had singled with one out earlier in the frame.

With Baker rolling along, the Twins were handed another run in the third. Things got started when MVP candidate Justin Morneau drew his second walk with one out. He then moved to third when Royals first baseman Ryan Shealy fielded Jason Kubel's ground ball and fired an errant throw to second that ended up in left-center field.

After Duckworth hit Delmon Young to load the bases, Morneau scored on Brendan Harris' fielder's choice to put Minnesota up 2-0 when catcher John Buck dropped the force throw at the plate.

"We'd like to say we played better," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "You'd like to finish up stronger mentally, but sometimes that happens - especially when you're in an atmosphere like this. That's what happened today."

Young singled in two runs in the seventh and Mauer - his batting average now at .330 - tripled to center to bring home another pair in the eighth.

"It was a pretty exciting day," Mauer said. "I wish we were throwing champagne on each other, but hopefully (we will) soon."

Gardenhire said after Sunday's game that rookie righthander Nick Blackburn would take the mound for Minnesota if a one-game playoff with Chicago is necessary on Tuesday.

"I'm not gonna let it change me," Blackburn said of the pressure. "I'm gonna go in there the same way."








  • AL
    FINAL
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    KANSAS CITY 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 2
    MINNESOTA 0 1 1 0 0 0 2 2 x 6 7 0 (FINAL)

    BATTERIES: KAN - BRANDON DUCKWORTH, RON MAHAY (7TH), LEO NUNEZ (7TH), DEVON
    LOWERY (8TH), JIMMY GOBBLE (8TH) AND JOHN BUCK
    MIN - SCOTT BAKER, JOSE MIJARES (8TH), JOE NATHAN (9

    Sep 28 5:21 PM


  • AL
    AT MINNESOTA - SCORING UPDATE
    TRIPLE BY JOE MAUER SCORED NICK PUNTO AND DENARD SPAN.
    SITUATION: 2 RUNS IN, J MAUER ON THIRD, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: KANSAS CITY 0
    MINNESOTA 6 BOTTOM, 8TH
    DUE UP FOR MINNESOTA: J MORNEAU (.302, 0-FOR-2, 2 BB)

    Royals 0, Twins 6  Bot 8, 0 OutsSep 28 5:12 PM


  • AL
    AT MINNESOTA - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY DELMON YOUNG SCORED ALEXI CASILLA AND JOE MAUER.
    SITUATION: 2 RUNS IN, D YOUNG ON SECOND, J PRIDIE ON THIRD, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: KANSAS CITY 0
    MINNESOTA 4 BOTTOM, 7TH
    DUE UP FOR MINNESOTA: B HARRIS (.265, 0-FOR-2, HBP)

    Royals 0, Twins 4  Bot 7, 0 OutsSep 28 4:43 PM
  • 15
    roots
    McTool Added 5 roots

    Royals 0, Twins 2  Bot 7, 0 OutsSep 28 4:28 PM


  • AL
    AT MINNESOTA - SCORING UPDATE
    FIELDER'S CHOICE BY BRENDAN HARRIS SCORED JUSTIN MORNEAU.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, B HARRIS ON FIRST, D YOUNG ON SECOND, J
    KUBEL ON THIRD, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: KANSAS CITY 0
    MINNESOTA 2 BOTTOM, 3RD
    DUE UP FOR MINNESOTA: N PUNTO (.284, 1-FOR-1)

    Royals 0, Twins 2  Bot 3, 0 OutsSep 28 3:16 PM


  • AL
    AT MINNESOTA - SCORING UPDATE
    DOUBLE BY DENARD SPAN SCORED NICK PUNTO.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, D SPAN ON SECOND, C GOMEZ ON THIRD, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: KANSAS CITY 0
    MINNESOTA 1 BOTTOM, 2ND
    DUE UP FOR MINNESOTA: A CASILLA (.284, 0-FOR-0, BB)

    Royals 0, Twins 1  Bot 2, 0 OutsSep 28 2:50 PM
  • 10
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    shopgirl Added 5 roots

    Royals vs. TwinsSep 28 10:15 AM
  • 5
    roots
    GREGnKY Added 5 roots

    Royals vs. TwinsSep 28 9:59 AM