DETROIT – The Twins have a history of playing in Game 163s. And they might have to repeat history if they want to make the postseason once again.
They entered Saturday 1½ games behind Houston, which held the second wild-card spot, and one game behind the Angels, who passed them in the standings Friday.
When the Twins wake up Sunday, there will be eight games left in the season. And they will be bunched with other hopefuls.
That means it’s time to look at potential Game 163 scenarios.
If the Twins tie with the Astros: The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record, but both teams won three of the six meetings. The second tiebreaker is record against own division. The Twins began Saturday with a 35-32 record in the AL Central. Houston beat Texas on Saturday to improve to 35-37 in the West with one game against the Rangers and three at Seattle left before the Astros finish with an interleague series at Arizona. The Twins finish up at Detroit on Sunday then play four at Cleveland followed by three at home against Kansas City.
Since the Twins lead by five in the loss column, they are practically guaranteed of having a better record against division foes than Houston, so they would win that tiebreaker and play host to Game 163.
If the Twins tie Los Angeles, the Angels would play host to Game 163 because the Angels won the series 5-2.
Now, if the Twins, Angels and Astros end in a three-way tie for the wild card, this is where it gets complicated. The Angels would have best record (14-12) against the other two clubs. It would be up to them to decide to play two tiebreaker games at home or one on the road. Most likely, the Angels would opt to play one game. So the Twins would play host to Game 163 against Houston — based on the tiebreaker listed earlier — and if they won that game, they would play host to the Angels the next day, Game 164. Both games would be regular-season games, meaning the teams can use their entire 40-man rosters.
For all of this to happen, the Twins will need to find their finishing kick. But they have done it before.
In 2008, the Twins trailed the White Sox by 2½ games with eight to play. They went 5-3 over that span, finished with the same 162-game record as Chicago and then lost Game 163.
In 2009, the Twins trailed Detroit by two games with nine to play. They went 6-3 to force Game 163, winning in extra innings in the final regular-season game at the Metrodome.
“I’m hoping we can run them down again this time,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “I’m not throwing up any flags, I’m just stating facts. If we are going to run somebody down, we need to start winning games.”
• Lefthander Tommy Milone threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Saturday and was pleased with how his shoulder held up. He had been sidelined because of shoulder fatigue, and this might have been his last chance to prove he could contribute in some way down the stretch. Manager Paul Molitor indicated that Milone would be used in relief when the Twins visit Cleveland on Monday.
• Molitor said he planned to check in with Glen Perkins to make sure he moved on from his disastrous outing Friday in which he allowed two inherited runners to score in the seventh then gave up the winning two-run homer in the eighth. “I’ll at least give him a pat on the back,” Molitor said. The plan Saturday was not to use Perkins, who threw 28 pitches Friday and had worked five of the previous seven games, posting a 10.38 ERA and giving up three home runs.