After Tiger victory, Twins force playoff with 13-4 win over Royals
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- More than 51,000 fans and dozens of players from Metrodome lore turned out on Sunday to say goodbye to this big, dingy building after 28 weird, wacky and sometimes wonderful baseball seasons.
Hang on to those Homer Hankies: The Metrodome showed this weekend that it still has some of that old magic left and isn't ready to let the Minnesota Twins go just yet.
Jason Kubel got those familiar white towels waving with a pair of three-run homers and Minnesota beat Kansas City 13-4 Sunday, putting the Twins into a one-game playoff with the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central title.
"The place doesn't want to go away quietly yet," Kubel said.
The Twins and Tigers, who beat the White Sox 5-3, will meet at 4 p.m. CDT Tuesday with the division title and a postseason date with the New York Yankees going to the winner.
"When we need a win, where do we go?" former first baseman Kent Hrbek asked the fans during a postgame ceremony. "We go to the Dome."
They need one more.
Scott Baker will start the tiebreaker for the Twins against Detroit rookie Rick Porcello. The teams get a day off because the Minnesota Vikings host Green Bay on Monday night.
Delmon Young added two solo home runs and Michael Cuddyer also went deep for the Twins, who overcame a three-game deficit by winning 16 of 20, including the final four, to reach the playoff.
"It's been fun to watch," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Just a group of guys that were on a mission."
Carl Pavano (14-12) pitched on three days' rest, giving up four runs and striking out seven in 5 2-3 innings in what was supposed to be the final regular-season baseball game in the Metrodome.
The Twins move outside to Target Field next year, but they're more than happy to keep playing under the shabby white roof for the time being.
Alex Gordon homered for the Royals, who fell behind 8-1 but rallied to bring the tying run to the plate in the sixth. Reliever Jon Rauch struck out Billy Butler with the bases loaded to end the threat, and the crowd was able to exhale.
Minnesota was seven games down to the Tigers on Sept. 6 and appeared all but finished after losing two of the first three games in their four-gamer at Detroit last week.
"Everybody's written us off and rightfully so," Gardenhire said. "We looked pretty ugly. But we didn't write ourselves off and that's all that matters."
They came home needing a sweep of the Royals and the Tigers to lose two of three to the floundering White Sox in Motown.
That's just what they got.
"I guess it just says a little bit about the tenacity of this baseball team," Gardenhire said. "They keep playing until the end. The fans want a full 162-game schedule and they're getting it."
And then some.
The Twins have been here before.
Last season they went to a one-game tiebreaker for the AL Central against the White Sox, losing a 1-0 heartbreaker in Chicago to miss out on postseason. That game was played in the Windy City because the White Sox won a coin flip, something that infuriated the Twins after they won the season series.
Major League Baseball changed the tiebreaker rule this season, giving home field to the team that won the head-to-head season series. The Twins went 11-7 against the Tigers this season, including 7-2 at the Metrodome.
"We've been in these games before," Cuddyer said. "We're not a stranger to big games."
Homer Hankies that first made the national scene with the Twins' run to the World Series title in 1987 were back on display, and 51,155 fans -- the largest crowd since opening day of 1993 -- got an early reason to use them.
Luke Hochevar (7-13) walked Denard Span, who stole second, to start the game. Then, with chants of "MVP! MVP!" raining down, he pitched around Joe Mauer with one out and first base open. Kubel followed with an upper deck homer to right field and, two batters later, Young hit a solo shot to make it 4-0.
"These guys got a lot of momentum going right now," Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
Mauer went 0 for 3 and is hitting .364 for the season, all but assuring him of his second straight AL batting title and third in his career.
Kubel's second homer of the game landed just over leaping left fielder Willie Bloomquist's glove for a 7-0 lead. From then on, the crowd turned its eyes to the scoreboard, hoping the same White Sox that spoiled their season last year would help turn the day into a coronation.
Chants of "Let's go, White Sox!" filled the Dome, and one of the loudest roars of the day came when the scoreboard showed Chicago cutting Detroit's lead to 5-3. But the Tigers held on.
"We're happy to be here," closer Joe Nathan said. "A lot of people coming into September would have probably said there was no chance and I'm sure 99 percent of the people in Minnesota probably thought there was no chance either. So to be where we are, we've got a good feeling."
So, to paraphrase the late, great Jack Buck's call after Kirby Puckett's game-winning homer in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series against Atlanta ...
And we'll see ya Tuesday afternoon!