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Time for the AL Central Showdown

The only race really worth watching in the American League reaches its turning point Monday night as the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers host the Minnesota Twins who are two games back.

The Tigers have won five of their last seven but lost two of three during their weekend series in Chicago. The Twins have won five of their last six, their only loss coming Sunday in Kansas City as they were treated to the Zack Greinke experience.

Going further back, Minnesota is 11-2 in the past two weeks, a stretch that directly coincides with Justin Morneau's absence in the lineup. Morneau is out for the season with a stress fracture in his lower back. When Morneau was ruled out it seemed likely that the Twins would be toast, but Manager Ron Gardenhire again rallied his troops for a late-season run.

The Tigers are 6-4 at home this month, but are just 3-2 at Comerica against Minnesota this season and 5-9 overall. Detroit seemed to pick a bad time to suffer its longest losing streak of the season (five games from Sept. 8 to Sept. 12) but the Twins were unable to capitalize, thus giving us this all-important series in the final week of the season.

The first three games of the series are available to a national television audience with Games 1 and 2 to be aired on MLB Network, while Wednesday night's Game 3 will be on ESPN with all three of these games slated to start at 7 p.m. ET. Thursday afternoon's finale will stat at 1 but currently does not appear to be nationally televised.

The pitching matchups for the series look like this:

Twins at Tigers

Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18) vs. Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14)
Brian Duensing (5-1, 3.33) vs. Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41)
Carl Pavano (13-11, 4.86) vs. Eddie Bonine (0-1, 4.60)
Scott Baker (14-9, 4.48) vs. Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56)

If the Tigers do not emerge with a commanding lead, Detroit would appear to have the inside track heading into the final weekend as it wraps up the regular season at home against the Chicago White Sox who have lost eight of their last 11. Minnesota however would host a Royals team that is 14-11 this month (the team's most wins in a month this year).

Having said all that, perhaps its time to ask you guys...

By CJ Holley  |  September 28, 2009; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  Playoffs , Tigers , Twins  | Tags: american league central, detroit tigers, minnesota twins, playoffs  
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