Records: Twins 12-20 (LOL) White Sox 19-13
First Pitch: Tues/Wed 7:10 Thursday 1:10
TV/Radio: NBCSN and ESPN1000
Ted Talk: Twinkie Town
Game 1: Kenta Maeda (2-2 5.02 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (2-0 2.37 ERA)
Game 2: J.A. Happ (2-0 1.91 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-1 3.79 ERA)
Game 3: Michael Pineda (2-1 2.43 ERA) vs. Carlos Rodon (5-0 0.58 ERA (!!))
Ahhh the Twins. The Nashville Predators of the AL Central. The team that has the talent to win the division year in and year out, yet is hilariously unable to win even a game in the postseason. It would be even more hilarious if it usually didn’t come at the expense of the White Sox playoff chances. This year things seem to be upside down, however. The Twins record currently sits at an ugly 12-20, good enough for 4th in the division while the Sox sit atop the pile at 19-13. The Twins, known these past few years for pounding the ball out of the yard (earning them the moniker of Bomba Squad) continue to be offensively gifted, sitting 4th in the AL in total offense right behind the Sox. The pitching is where it all starts going wrong for the Twins. They currently rank dead last in the AL for WAR earned by their pitching staff (the Sox sit 2nd behind NY), and are bottom 3 for all the major categories including K/9, ERA, and FIP.
The starters for Minnesota actually haven’t been as bad as the above indicates, as nobody expects Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda to have 5+ ERAs for the rest of the season (though to be fair, nobody expects JA Happ to have a sub 2 ERA for the rest of the year either). It’s when the starters come out of the game that the pitching gets truly horrendous. The Twins bullpen is worth a collective -0.6 WAR, and has the most blown saves of any AL team thus far in the season, most of which came from Sox Sleeper Agent Alex Colome who’s 1-3 record with 3 blown saves has done more for the Chicago cause than anyone else on the Minnesota Squad. Anytime I see those stats, my complaints about the start for Liam Hendriks die a quiet death.
On the offensive side of the ball, the long awaited breakout for Byron Buxton seems to have finally happened. In the month of April he absolutely punished the ball, to the tune of a .370/.408/1.180 slash line and a hilarious 226 wRC+ rating. He also crushed 9 home runs and stole 5 bases, which seems kind of low for him but when all the balls you hit leave the yard stolen base opportunities tend to go down. Unfortunately for Buxton and the Twins, the injury bug that has plagued him his entire career reared it’s ugly head last week when he pulled up lame with a grade 2 hip flexor strain (sound familiar?) and will miss a few weeks at least while it heals up.
Nelson Cruz is still doing his thing, slashing .295/.340/.910 with 8 dingers. For a guy pushing 41 years old, that’s impressive as hell. He no longer plays in the field, so the Twins lose him when they head to NL parks (much like the Sox with the Yerminator) but when he’s at the dish there’s nobody on the Twins who can do more damage with Buxton out.
After Buxton, Cruz and Josh Donaldson (when healthy), the drop in production rate is pretty steep for the Twins. Miguel Sano, Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler are all under the .250 mark for average, with .480 the highest slugging percentage among them. Prized rookie Alex Kirrillof was called back up a few weeks ago (mysteriously after the service time deadline for another season passed. Weird) and went on a tear for about 10 days before he fucked up his wrist (and my fantasy team). They’re waiting on a second opinion, but season ending surgery is still on the table. Either way, both him and Buxton will be out from this series.
As for the Sox, they look to keep the momentum going on the pitching side of things after the triumphant sweep of the Royals this weekend where Rodon, Lynn and Giolito allowed a combined 4 runs the entire series. The offense did it’s part, banging out 29 hits and plating 21 runs in the series. The Sox jumped all over the Royals prized rookie starter Daniel Lynch by dropping 8 runs on his head and chasing him from the game before he could complete the first inning. The Yerminator had his first career triple on Sunday afternoon, hitting a ball in the gap that Michael Taylor tried to snag with a dive but ended up punting it into the corner. The Yerm ended up a home run short of his first career cycle, but seeing him chug past second for the triple was well worth my time.
Both Dallas Keuchel and Dylan Cease look to build off their excellent starts last time out against Cincinnati, going a combined 13 innings without yielding a run. Cease had his best outing possibly of his career, going 6 strong innings with 11 strikeouts. More importantly he was efficient with his pitches, only walking 3 (which for him is an improvement) and throwing 96 to finish the day. His fastball had more life on it than in previous starts, and he was accurate with it at the top of the zone. Keuchel was back to his old economical self, only striking out 1 but getting everyone else on the Reds to pound the ball in the dirt with his sinker, which looked the best it has since last season. Both guys are going to need to continue this trend, because despite the Twins being in a rut they still have the offensive weapons to make the Sox arms pay the price for mistakes.
Despite being up 7 games on the Twins, now is not the time to take the foot off the gas. I think we all know that the Twins misery is only temporary, and at some point the sleeping giant is going to awaken and climb back up the rankings. The 6 games the Sox have with them in the next 9 days is the perfect chance to put even more distance between them and Minnesota, and making that hole they have to climb out of even deeper. 4 of 6 would be an excellent start, 6 of 6 would be considered euphoric. Bury these fuckers while you have the chance…no mercy.
Let’s Go Sox