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CHICAGO — Our guts told us it would come to this, sure as mended bones ache when storms approach. The Twins and White Sox will play today to decide the championship of the American League Central while resuming the best rivalry involving the Twin Cities since the Vikings stopped beating the Packers.
Visitors to Yankee Stadium in the '70s had to contend with a contentious collection of talent dwelling in "The Bronx Zoo." The Twins know today they're entering the Southside Asylum. If the Sox argued any more with each other, they'd be called "The View."
Monday at the ballpark once known as Comiskey Park, the White Sox beat the Tigers 8-2 in a makeup game that was, like the culmination of the race, delayed. Rain pushed back the starting time three hours before the White Sox forced a one-game playoff with their least favorite team.
While the Twins at least pretend to like each other, the Sox for two days straight featured this inspirational motto written on their clubhouse message board: "(Forget) Feelings ... It's About Winning!!!!"
Last weekend, former Twin and current White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski visited the mound to speak with pitcher Javier Vazquez. Pierzynski chided Vazquez, who shouted back at him, this occuring a week after manager Ozzie Guillen questioned Vazquez's ability to pitch in big games and shortstop Orlando Cabrera said his team doesn't always play "as winners."
Guillen said he's run out of players "to throw under the bus." Asked about his players' feelings, Guillen said, "I don't care. ... They don't care about mine. I never heard any player come up to me and say, 'How are you feeling today?' ...
"The only way we're going to feel good about this, the only way we might not hate each other in the offseason, is we win. That's it. It's going to take a little while to get over this one if we don't do what we're supposed to do."
Guillen might be the one vital member of the White Sox organization who reveres the Twins. He loves the way they hustle, field and run the bases. The rest of the Sox, from GM Kenny Williams on down, seem offended by the Twins' reliance on bloop hits and home-dome advantage, and should be heartened by the coin flip that caused this playoff game to be contested at the former Comiskey.
"It's going to be fun tomorrow," said Pierzynski, the former Twin. "Let's hope the crowd brings it. Let's make it louder than the Metrodome because I've heard it loud there, but the last couple times wasn't as good as it could be."
The White Sox plan a "blackout," and are encouraging fans to wear all black to the ballpark. "Hopefully, they get a lot of beer in them, and get it going," Pierzynski said.
The White Sox are 53-28 at home, the Twins are 35-46 on the road, and there will be no flyballs lost in the roof today.
"I think you can ask Minnesota how much different of a team they are at home, too," Pierzynski said. "I guarantee you it won't be a concrete home plate like it was in Minnesota, where they can chop the ball off home plate and run. I guarantee you it'll be wet out tomorrow, and they're going to actually have to not chop the ball off the dirt and run.
"They're going to have to get some hits in the air, and we like our chances of catching them."
The atmosphere Monday was subdued by the rain delay, but it promises to be raucous tonight. In a way, this will be one of the biggest games in franchise history, like a seventh game without the six appetizers.
There really wasn't much chance of the Tigers winning on Monday. In the bottom of the first, Detroit sent a pitching coach it had already fired to the mound to counsel a starting pitcher who isn't in the regular rotation in an attempt to win a game that could do nothing more for the Tigers than delay their flights home.
The Twins had to know they'd be boarding their charter to Chicago, with champagne in tow.
Today they'll play the first one-game playoff in franchise history, and the only game in the country of baseball, with the winners becoming division champion and boarding a flight to Tampa, and the losers feeling they wasted 163 games.
"Now the first 162 mean nothing," Guillen said. "It's just one game. And that's great."
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • firstname.lastname@example.org