KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Paul Molitor has been trying to keep his team motivated for about five months now. This week, he’ll finally watch opposing managers do the same.
The Royals, World Series champions 11 months ago, are on the brink of elimination from the postseason chase, and it could come tonight, if Baltimore wins or Kansas City loses. And this weekend, the Twins will close the season in Chicago, facing a White Sox team that was also eliminated long ago.
It’s quite a change for the Twins, who have been facing a steady diet of teams in must-win situations for more than a month. In fact, since their visit to last-place Atlanta in mid-August, the Twins have played 36 games — and 32 of them were against teams within five games of a playoff spot.
So it will be interesting to see how these playing-out-the-string games look this week, when neither team feels the urgency of postseason play. Molitor said he’s been trying to keep complacency away as best as he can.
“It’s my job to try to keep these guys [in the] present as much as we can. It’s easy to let your mind start drifting to what you’ll be doing a week from today, instead of [on] today,” the Twins’ manager said. “It’s our our job to try to prevent that. We’ll be watching to see who comes out and gives us a good effort the rest of the week.”
He gave Brian Dozier the option of sitting out a few games if he likes, but the Twins’ second baseman said he wants to play. He’s in the lineup tonight, with the now-usual jumble of players behind him. Tonight’s lineup is the 143rd different batting order Molitor has used this season, and the first one with Logan Schafer in the fifth spot. Molitor has used a unique lineup every day since early June, and while his shuffling won’t set a franchise record — Ron Gardenhire needed 150 lineups in 2011, and Tom Kelly used 152 in 1999 — it’s still a lot of daily fluctuation.
Here are the lineups for the first game of three in Kansas City, all of which start at 6:15 p.m.:
E. Escobar SS
A. Escobar SS