What's it worth to win the American League East?
Not as much as it would be if the Twins were winning the American League Central again.
The East winner will almost certainly play the Central winner in the first round of the playoffs. The East runner-up will be the wild card, and will play the Rangers.
And the complicating factor is Justin Verlander.
If the Tigers win the Central, they get the East winner in a best-of-5 series, with the possibility that Verlander could start twice. If he wins twice, the Tigers would need just one win in any of the other three games to advance.
That's exactly what happened in the first round last year. The East winner, the Rays, lost twice to Cliff Lee. The Rays won two of the other three games against the Rangers, but it wasn't enough.
Meanwhile, the wild-card Yankees swept past the Twins.
The Yankees always beat the Twins. They did it again Thursday night, their 20th win in their last 23 games against Minnesota, including sweeps in the last two Division Series.
The Red Sox have been nearly as good, with 15 wins in their last 21 games against the Twins.
The Twins don't have a Verlander, or anyone close. In the playoffs, the Twins have had no chance.
Maybe the Tigers wouldn't have a chance, either, even with Verlander. Maybe the Indians or the White Sox will get past the Tigers and win the Central (the Tigers lead the Indians by 1 1/2 games and the White Sox by four, with the Indians coming to Detroit this weekend).
Maybe it's worth it to win the East, anyway, because if the Yankees and Red Sox both advance to the American League Championship Series, the team that wins the division would have home-field advantage.
But it sure would be easier if the Twins were winning the Central.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. Someone asked me the other day who starts Game 2 for the Yankees. My answer? Whoever looks best the last two weeks of the season. Maybe that could even be Phil Hughes, who starts Game 2 of this weekend's series, Yankees at Twins, Friday night (8:10 ET) at Target Field. Hughes' 6.55 ERA is the third-worst in the American League (minimum 40 innings) behind the Royals duo of Sean O'Sullivan and Kyle Davies. But Hughes has gone six innings in three straight starts (and four of the last five), allowing two runs or less each time.
2. The first round of the 2008 draft produced Buster Posey, who helped the Giants win the World Series. It produced Lonnie Chisenhall, Gordon Beckham, Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth, who are all part of this year's American League Central race. It produced Brett Lawrie, who the first-place Brewers traded to the Blue Jays to get Shaun Marcum. And it produced Wade Miley, the 24-year-old left-hander the first-place Diamondbacks called up when Jason Marquis broke his leg last Sunday. Miley, who grew up in Louisiana as a Braves fan, makes his big-league debut in Diamondbacks at Braves, Saturday afternoon (7:10 ET) at Turner Field. Miley will face Brandon Beachy, who was also eligible for that 2008 draft. He didn't go in the first round -- or any round -- and the Braves signed him as an undrafted free agent.
3. Tiger manager Jim Leyland reworked his rotation to make sure Verlander pitched against the Indians last week, and Verlander's win kept the Indians from a three-game sweep. Leyland chose not to rework his rotation again this week, and that means Rick Porcello will face Ubaldo Jimenez in Indians at Tigers, Sunday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Comerica Park. The Tigers are 14-9 with Porcello starting, but in 12 starts since June 12, Porcello has a 6.35 ERA. Verlander, who last pitched Tuesday (beating the Twins) is scheduled to start Monday night at Tampa Bay.