Time for the final showdowns
Twins, Tigers continue to battle; LA, Rox go head-to-head
The countdown to the end of the Dodgers' regular season is under way .
Three games to go.
Two-game lead over the Rockies in the division.
One victory away from clinching the NL West.
|AL Division Series|
|NL Division Series|
The final three days of baseball's regular season lifts off Friday with a busy slate of games that includes a head-to-head matchup between the Rockies and the Dodgers in Los Angeles and a pair of AL Central showdowns in the nation's heartland involving the division-leading Tigers and the second-place Twins.
The weekend is going to be a blast.
"We know we're in the driver's seat," Tigers catcher Gerald Laird said. "We just have to keep playing good baseball like we have at home, and we'll be celebrating."
Any combination of two Tigers wins this weekend against the visiting White Sox or Twins losses at home to the Royals would clinch Detroit's first division crown since 1987. The seeding in the National League is also at stake this weekend. The Dodgers lead by a game over the Phillies and two over the Cardinals for the league's best record and will be looking to rebound from a 3-6 road trip. The Dodgers are 12-3 against the Rockies this year.
"This is an unusual club, it's been that way all year," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I'm not saying we were ever given up for dead, but we could play flat, then bounce right back. And when we left town for this trip, we had won five of six, and on Sunday, had beaten [Tim] Lincecum and the Giants. We came on the road in the right frame of mind. It's strange."
The Dodgers will start Randy Wolf, the club's most consistent starter all season, on Friday at Dodger Stadium. The Rockies will counter with Ubaldo Jimenez. Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Dodgers on Saturday against Jorge De La Rosa, and on Sunday, the Rockies will start Jason Marquis against a Dodgers starter to be named.
The Rockies clinched a spot in the postseason Thursday but don't appear satisfied.
"We want to go in there and beat L.A.," said Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook. "We haven't played good against them this season, so this is our opportunity to go in there and play good solid baseball and see what happens."
As for the Twins, the club will send Jeff Manship, Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing to the hill against the Royals this weekend. The Royals will counter with Lenny DiNardo, AL Cy Young Award candidate Zack Greinke on Saturday and Luke Hochevar on Sunday.
The Twins need help from the White Sox but are determined to help themselves and also make sure these are not the final baseball games played at the Metrodome, which the Twins will leave for Target Field next season.
"We're going to the dome for the last weekend, and we've still got a shot," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Hopefully we'll go and at least do our part."
The Tigers weekend will not be a cakewalk. Jake Peavy will pitch for the White Sox on Friday against Edwin Jackson, and on Saturday, the White Sox will send out Freddy Garcia, a pitcher with nothing to lose and everything to gain, against Alfredo Figaro. Detroit ace Justin Verlander is on tap to pitch in the series finale Sunday against White Sox left-hander John Danks.
"We've played good against [the White Sox] before," Laird said. "We've got Edwin going and we've got one of the big boys going at the end. Hopefully we can get it done before [Sunday] so we don't have to use [Verlander], but I really like our chances."
In the race to see who will play the Wild Card team in the Division Series, the Cardinals will send Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro to the mound against the Brewers in St. Louis. Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels are on tap to pitch for Philadelphia against the Marlins at home to close out the regular season.
The team with the better final record will face the Wild Card. The Phillies have a one-game edge over the Cardinals.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.