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Are the Twins in the Tigers' Heads?

Lynn Henning marked some "I told you so" territory in today's Detroit News. If the Minnesota Twins end up overtaking the Detroit Tigers to win the AL Central (and going into tonight's play, they're 3.5 games behind), he wants you to know where you read it first.

And Henning lists 10 pretty compelling reasons why the Twins could snatch a division title away from the Tigers for the second time in four years. (Henning actually notes 11 reasons, but will Joe Crede - undoubtedly a king Tigers Killer - be a factor in the race after undergoing two epidural procedures in a week? Meanwhile, Crede insists retirement isn't part of the equation right now.)

Here's one of his more interesting thoughts:

2. Mind games: This is strictly my view, but the Tigers often play the Twins as if they're going to lose. It's on a par with the way Ohio State used to confront Michigan when John Cooper coached the Buckeyes. OSU was psychologically beaten before kickoff. I don't see Leyland having contributed anything negative to the Tigers' perceived inferiority complex. Rather, the Twins simply seem to delight in treating the Tigers like personal pin cushions.

Are the Twins in the Tigers' heads? Jim Leyland seems to fear Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau more than any other opposing hitters his team faces, even making sure the pitching staff has enough left-handers to throw against them when needed. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Mauer looks well on his way to winning a MVP award, while Morneau - himself a MVP in 2006 - is on track for another 30+ homer, 100+ RBI season.

I wonder if Minnesota really has the starting pitching to see this thing through. (Henning, in fairness, acknowledges this is a weak spot on their roster.) And unless Carl Pavano can start every one of the games the Tigers and Twins have remaining against each other, Detroit has shown they can handle the other starters in that rotation. Scott Baker has a 9.58 ERA in two starts versus the Tigers this year. Nick Blackburn? 5.11.

Of course, I might be feeling differently if the Twins had gotten either Brad Penny or Rich Harden yesterday. Okay, I'd really be nervous if they got Harden. But they didn't, so...

For another viewpoint, Mack Avenue Tigers looks at the schedules for both the Tigers and Twins in the 30 or so games left on their respective schedules. It's going to be quite a race to the finish.