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TWINS BECOMING OLD HANDS AT EXTENDING REGULAR SEASON

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS - The Twins seem to think that 162 regular-season games aren't enough.

The Twins host the Tigers today in a tiebreaker for the AL Central title and a trip the playoffs. Minnesota is playing a 163rd game to finish the season for the second straight time, a first.

One year after losing a 1-0 heartbreaker in Chicago, the Twins will get the homefield advantage as they look to cap a late-season rally.

"It's like deja vu," second baseman Nick Punto said. "Last year, same thing. A lot of these guys have been through this, though. I think that's the best part about it. That breeds confidence just knowing you've been in a position like this before."

A month ago, the Twins were seven games behind the Tigers. Three weeks ago, they lost All-Star slugger Justin Morneau to a season-ending back injury. Last week, they were three games down with four to play.

Yet here they are again, thanks to 16 victories in 20 games and four straight to close the season.

"Everybody wrote off the Twins, it seems like, a long time ago, especially when Morneau went down," said outfielder Johnny Damon, whose Yankees are awaiting today's winner. "A team needs to keep fighting, and they've been one of those special teams for a long time."

The Tigers, who lost 15 of their final 26 to let the Twins back in it, aren't putting too much stock in experience.

Manager Jim Leyland is sending 20-year-old rookie Rick Porcello to face Twins right-hander Scott Baker in front of more than 50,000 fans inside the deafening Metrodome.

"It's going to be the loudest environment any of these guys have ever been in, and I can tell you that firsthand because I was up there for the '87 World Series when they called it 'The Hankie Dome' and my wife couldn't even hear each other talk," Leyland said. "But that's okay. Sometimes that works for you, and sometimes that works against you."

Postseason glance - All games will be broadcast on TBS

AL division series

Yankees (AL East champion) vs. Tigers/Twins (AL Central champion)

Game 1: at New York; 6:07 p.m. Wednesday or Thursday. Scheduled starter: Yankees - CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.37)

Red Sox (AL wild card)vs. Angels (AL West champion)

Game 1: at Los Angeles; 6:07 p.m. Wednesday or 9:37 p.m. Thursday. Scheduled starters: Red Sox - Jon Lester (15-8, 3.41); Angels - John Lackey (11-8, 3.83)

NL division series

Phillies (NL East champion) vs. Rockies (NL wild card)

Game 1: at Philadelphia, 2:37 p.m. Wednesday. Scheduled starters: Rockies - Ubaldo Jimenez (15-12, 3.47); Phillies - Cole Hamels (10-11, 4.32)

Dodgers (NL West champion) vs. Cardinals (NL Central champion)

Game 1: at Los Angeles, 9:37 p.m. Wednesday. Scheduled starters: Cardinals - Chris Carpenter (17-4, 2.24); Dodgers - Randy Wolf (11-7, 3.23)

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