19 games left, 6 game lead. Doing the math, if the Twins go 9-10, the White Sox would have to go 15-4 just to tie. Things are looking good. What was once a series circled multiple times on the calendar in big red marker is now simply mentally circled, a do-or-die series for the White Sox and an opportunity to break the backs of the arch rival for the the Twins. Let's go straight to the pitching matchups, this series probably doesn't need any more fanfare.
Tuesday Night: Francisco Liriano (13-7; 2.37 FIP) v. John Danks (13-10; 3.56 FIP)
My first thought was "great, Liriano will get this series off to a good start." Then I thought to look at his starts this season in which he was the game 1 starter...the results, though limited by sample size, are mediocre. In 8 starts this season where Liriano was the game 1 starter this season, his line:
Obviously the peripherals are there. In fact, if you take out two rough starts against Detroit in which he gave up 13 earned runs in 7 2/3rds innings over two starts, his series opening ERA drops to 2.45. I still think it's the best possible situation to start this series because it puts extra pressure on the Sox. If the Twins win tonight, the best the Sox can do is gain one game on the Twins, which will leave them 5 out with 16 remaining, a nearly insurmountable advantage for the Twins.
Liriano's opposition will be John Danks who can be downright nasty at times. In 97 innings at home this year, Danks owns a 3.34 ERA and in September so far, he has a 2.08 ERA. He's been less stellar against the Twins this year, but I expect him to pitch well tomorrow night.
Wednesday Night: Brian Duensing (8-2; 3.49 FIP) v. Gavin Floyd (10-12; 3.42 FIP)
After an absolutely ridiculous June and July, Gavin Floyd has come back to earth a bit the last two months posting 4.50+ ERAs in both months so far. Still, Floyd's home ERA is about 1/2 a run less this season. He's been downright terrible against the Twins this year with a 7.41 ERA in 17 innings. Meanwhile, stretch-run hero Brian Duensing continues to turn in quality start after quality start. Duensing's road ERA is almost a 1.5 runs above his home ERA, but when he's on the mound, he always seems to give the Twins a chance to win and I expect he'll do the same this go-around.
Thursday Night: Carl Pavano (16-11; 3.73 FIP) v. Mark Buehrle (12-10; 4.00 FIP)
In my mind, this is the most daunting game of the three simply because if Buehrle can escape the first couple innings of the game, he usually goes on to dominate the Twins. In his last start against the Twins he went 7.0 innings giving up only 5 hits and 1 walk. If Pavano's recent back issue isn't enough to keep him from making this start I'm not entirely sure what they'll get out of him. He's been an absolute horse this season and in his last 10 starts he's given up more than 3 runs only 3 times.
The key for the Twins in this series is going to be their ability to score runs. It's no secret that this Twins team has struggled mightily at times to score on the road and there was no better evidence of that then this past weekend against Cleveland when they managed a meager 7 runs in 3 games, 6 of those runs coming yesterday. U.S. Cellular Field tends to be a launching pad at times so I expect homeruns from both sides, let's hope the Twins can take 2 of 3, and at the very least 1. Anything but a sweep by the Sox and the Twins will be in the catbird's seat.