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The Cage Match Is On

So here we go.

The Twins sit one game back in the loss column but tied with the Sox in the win column.

Mark Kotsay is still the designated hitter despite repeatedly showing he can't hit, his contributions moving closer and closer to winning this year's Grindy McGrinderstad award for Outstanding Achievement By An Inexplicably Overused And Overvalued Veteran Who Plays The Game The Right Way Except When It Comes To Hitting And Fielding.

Bobby Jenks is probably still the closer, even if he's hurt and can't close games and even while J.J. Putz is pitching like a 2007 version of J.J. Putz or, even better, a 2006 version of Bobby Jenks that didn't worry so much about proving he could pitch with "finesse" and "control" but rather came in and brutalized the enemy with air-scorching fastballs and curveballs that actually curved.

Twins pitching rests entirely on the resurrected arm of Francisco Liriano and the fraudulent, perpetual contract audition of Carl Pavano.

Justin Morneau, leading contender for American League MVP at the time of injury, might not be the same hitter once (read: if) he comes back.

The Twins brought aboard a fine reliever from trading season while all signs indicate the Sox may have done the same with their new starter.

Two similarly flawed teams somehow becoming the division's class-by-default. Two clubs with major problems. Two rosters full of serious holes. And with that, let the annual A.L. Central low-rent cage match begin!

Week in Review: Inverse. Take three of four from the allegedly good Tigers, but drop two of three to the expectedly mediocre Orioles.

Week in Preview: Centralized, as the Good Guys finish up in Baltimore, then stack a six-game homestand with three apiece against the Twins and Tigers.

Hawkeroo's Can-O-Corn Watch: "There's a school of thought, and I agree with this, that says consistently starting out with a 1-0 count, 2-0, even a 3-0 count can be a sign of a good pitcher, because that gets the batter thinking he's got it all figured out, then you can sneak a slider on the corner there and suddenly you look up and it's a full count, or it's a 3-1 the batter doesn't know what to do with. And you see Freddy out there, Edwin when he was with Detroit, Nick Blackburn in Minnesota, Greg Maddux, Alex Fernandez when we had him, that's what great pitchers do is keep batters thinking they've got a thing, when really it's just a case of knowing what that thing is."

Gordon Beckham Hall of Fame Update: Gordon Beckham injury scares brought on by displays of defensive wizardry this weekend: one. Jim Thome injury scares brought on by displays of defensive wizardry this weekend: zero. Advantage: Beckham.

Alumni News You Can Use: Former White Sox pitching prospect Daniel Hudson defeated former White Sox laid-back dude Jon Garland Friday night in a showdown for the ages.

The "H" in "DH" Stands For: How, as in "How does Mark Kotsay still have a job as a full-time designated hitter?"

The Q Factor: The assistant turns the dial on the pitching machine up to 60. "It's not a case of (WHAM!) division rivals per se," he says, watching the ball float towards the warning track. "Now 70, Ronnie. The larger goal is to distance ourselves, be it from the Twins, Tigers (WHAM!) whoever we have to." The ball tears through the outfield air and into the left-field bleachers. "Gimme 85, Ronnie." The assistant nods. "They need to know we're not just here to win (WHAM!) or even win big. But we've got larger ambitions than what people think. (WHAM!) Let's try 95 now, Ronnie." The assistant turns the dial again. "Runs, victories, they're nice (POW!) but it's a pursuit of balancing what we play with how we play. (POW!)" He takes a step out of the batter's box, first watching the ball bounce mightily off the scoreboard, then examining his wrists as he tightens his gloves. He signals to the mound. The assistant moves the dial to 105. "Are we scoring runs? (BOOM!) Of course we are, and if we weren't I would make it so. But how are our opponents (BOOM!) leaving the field?" In the distance, the sound of breaking glass. He signals again to the mound. The assistant sighs and sets the machine to 120. Maximum velocity. "We don't just want to take the game (KA-BOOM!). We want their pride, their future, their hope (BOOOOOOOM!). Without those, wins mean nothing." Somewhere across the Dan Ryan, a series of sirens kick on; before we can even ask him how he did that, Carlos Quentin is gone.

The Guillen Meter: His heart in the right place but his words falling just a bit short, the Guillen Meter reads 79.8 for "And don't even get me started on white people."

Endorsement No-Brainer: Gordon Beckham for the George C. Scott remake of Hans Moleman's Man Getting Hit By Football: Argh, my groin!

Cubs Snub: Former Greatest Pitcher Ever and 2003 World Series MVP Mark Prior threw a scoreless inning Saturday for the Independent League's Orange County Flyers. A non-simulated inning, even. Also: fifth place is a "W"ay of life. Lemme hear ya, Cub fans.

The White Sox Report: Read 'em all.

The Cub Factor: It's funny because it's true.

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