The uncertainty is finally over: The Twins know who their opponent will be in Tuesday’s AL wild-card game. Boston’s 6-3 victory over Houston this afternoon clinched the AL East title for the Red Sox, and made the Yankees a wild card team for the second time in three years. It also cemented the destination for the wild-card game winner: Cleveland, which now is certain to finish with the league’s best record.
With that out of the way, and their hotel reservations in Boston now cancelled, the Twins can focus on finishing the season. Miguel Sano makes his first start since Aug. 19, after reporting no ill effects of his extensive workout yesterday, and his pinch-hitting appearance last night. He’ll DH and hit fifth.
Aaron Slegers will make his third major-league start tonight, after a long layoff. He’s faced only five batters since his Sept. 6 start, and even that short outing was nearly two weeks ago. But with Jose Berrios committed to the bullpen for Tuesday’s game, and no meaning in the standings to tonight’s contest, Twins manager Paul Molitor decided to reward Slegers for a season in Triple-A that might earn him the franchise’s minor-league pitcher of the year award.
“Everyone understands he hasn’t had a chance to pitch much over the past three weeks. It’s a little iffy how it’s going to go, but he’s been doing the best he can to keep himself sharp and ready,” Molitor said of Slegers, who went 15-4 with a 3.40 ERA for Class AAA Rochester. “I like this kid. He had a really good year down there, [and] gave us one really good start up here when we needed it. It’s a good opportunity.”
The bullpen crew might look a little different tonight, too, since most of the team’s best relievers all got to pitch Friday night. There’s no need to overtax anyone on the playoff roster, after all.
Bartolo Colon will start Sunday in the season finale — assuming the game is played; the forecast includes plenty of rain — in what might be a critical game in determining whether he will be included on the postseason roster if the Twins advance to the ALDS. “I think he needs to pitch. Hopefully he has a good outing and we can keep him out there for awhile,” Molitor said of Colon, who has a 13.50 ERA in his last four starts and lasted just one inning due to illness in his most recent outing. “[With] uncertainty about what’s down the road, depending on what goes on Tuesday, I think he needs to pitch.”
The Twins had a good laugh at Brian Dozier’s expense today; when the team emerged from the clubhouse for batting practice, Dozier discovered a chalk outline in the dirt, marking the spot where he sprawled on the ground after tripping while trying to stretch a double into a triple.
The entire team also plans to be in the dugout before the game to watch athletic trainer Dave Pruemer throw out the first pitch. Pruemer is retiring after the season, tired of the endless travel and wanting to be around his three kids more.
“I’m glad he’s getting a little bit of attention. Working with him closely the last three years, I see what he does and how the players respond to him. He doesn’t sugarcoat things,” Molitor said. “In some ways, he’s like a coach. He’s not afraid to challenge these guys and motivate guys as they go through rehab and injuries. To make a decision that’s family-based is very commendable. We’re going to miss having him around.
“We’ll see how he throws tonight, and hopefully he enjoys the moment,” Molitor added. “He deserves it.”
Here are the lineups for Game 161: