Baseball

   Twins VS.

 

2019 Series Record: Twins 12 – Sox 6

Gametimes: Friday 7:10, Saturday/Sunday 1:10

TV: NBCSCH (Which I guess is the new branding for NBCSN.)

Circle This, Bert: Puckett’s Pond

Probable Starters

Friday: Jose Berrios vs. Lucas Giolito

Saturday: Rich Hill vs. Dallas Keuchel

Sunday: Kenta Maeda vs. Reynaldo Lopez

 

Four months later than it was supposed to be, opening day is finally here. We’ve gone over ad nauseam the threats that COVID still poses to the season, as evidenced by Juan Soto testing positive just before first pitch yesterday against the Yankees. Sam even talked about the insanity of it all over at his new home yesterday. Yet despite all this, baseball really is back for the time being and if there’s Sox baseball to be watched, I’m going to watch it.

Which brings us to their first opponent of the season, and the biggest obstacle standing between them and their first playoff birth in what seems like an eternity: The Fucking Minnesota Twins. As noted above, the Twins pretty much dominated the Sox last season taking 2/3rds of the games in pretty handy fashion. The Twins bats (which had the kind of pop only seen in The Show 2020 while playing the Orioles on Rookie) were way too much for anyone not named Lucas Giolito. The Sox offense, while infinitely improved from the season before, still struggled to get the clutch hits that could’ve leveled the playing field against their hated rivals.

So what’s changed since last season? For the Sox, the addition of Yasmani Grandal should go a loooong way to help the young staff against the plutonium bats of Minnesota. Dallas Keuchel should also help keep the ball on the ground instead of plonking off the side of the giant goose head in right field. Oh, and some kid named Luis Robert will be playing in his first MLB game tonight. You might have heard of him, or seen this ridiculous home run he hit while falling on his ass the other day:

 

For the Twins, their attempt to surround staff ace Jose Berrios with something other than a bunch of reclamation projects ended with adding Kenta Maeda (who is good, but has spent his last few years coming out of the Dodgers bullpen) and Rich Hill (who’s fastball routinely topped out at 72 mph before he had major elbow surgery in the offseason). The Twins also decided that they didn’t hit the ball far enough last season so they added Josh Donaldson to the mix. Donaldson had a nice bounceback season last year after signing a one year “prove it” deal with the Braves, but isn’t exactly the piece that the Twins should’ve been looking for after their rotation was pummeled by the Yankees in the postseason.

Shockingly, Byron Buxton is already hurt after tripping over the mysterious lump in center at Target Field where the Twins may or may not have buried the bodies of Kirby Puckett’s accusers. He appears to have dodged major injury, but it’s probably only a matter of time before he runs into the outfield wall and all his limbs fly off. Miguel Sano had a case of the Rona, but (much like Yoan Moncada) appears to be ready to go this weekend. His move to 1b will certainly help a Twins infield that ranked in the middle of the pack defensively last season. Max Kepler appears ready to make the leap into the upper echelon of American League outfielders, as long as Buxton doesn’t detonate too close to him.

With the season being such a compressed mess, to have any hope of the playoffs the Sox have to start off on a good note. Taking 2 out of 3 against their biggest rival in the division would go a long way to setting the tone. Berrios has ace level stuff, but tailed off drastically at the end of last season. Rich Hill can be gotten to, and if the Sox are patient they can wait out Maeda and make it to a bullpen that at times was pretty shaky last year.

We all know the kind of pop the Twins bats have, so Giolio, Keuchel and Lopez have their work cut out for them. The Sox bullpen is still a work in progress, so the longer those 3 can go the better. Grandal should be able to provide some much needed framing strikes for Reynaldo Lopez, so let’s hope we get the dominant version of him that keeps his fastball at the top of the zone where it’s nigh unhittable.

Questions abound for the Sox this season, hopefully a few of them get positive answers this weekend against the Twins. The sprint to the World Series begins now. Let’s Go Sox.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 65-84   Twins 91-58

GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday 6:40

TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday/Wednesday

THEY LOVE HAWK: Twinkie Town

SERIES PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Twins Spotlight: Dingers!

After providing far too much hope for the Mariners future, the Sox head to Minneapolis to essentially form an honor guard for the Twins. Minnesota is goal-to-go for clinching the division, with a magic number of nine. They spent the weekend taking a doubleheader from the chasing Tribe, which essentially ended the discussion in the Central. 4.5 game lead with 13 games to go is going to be really hard to gag away.

So now it’s about setting up their rotation for the Division Series, getting guys rest who haven’t had it, and figuring out who can be in the bullpen and trusted with playoff innings. It’s a nice place to be, and perhaps another lesson for the White Sox on where they want to go.

That doesn’t mean the Twins are full-strength, or will be. Byron Buxton finally had to give in on his shoulder and have surgery, and he’s done for the year. Michael Pineda got suspended for taking a diuretic, which can be a masking agent but also can just be a diuretic. Still, MLB makes it pretty clear that anything taken should be checked with the training staff or league office, so if you get caught you had outs before. Still, MLB seems only to gobble up Latin players in this. Weird, no?

Which is going to leave the Twins short in the rotation, especially as they have to get through both the Astros and Yankees, in whatever order, to get to the World Series. And those two teams chew up really good pitching staffs anyway. Jose Berrios is your Game 1 starter, but other than him it’s basically Jake Odorizzi now and then a company outing. Berrios has the capability to shut anyone down on a crisp night, but he’ll most likely have to do it twice in a series for the Twins to have any chance.

Then again, the Twins aren’t going to feel like they have to apologize for anything offensively when the playoff roll around. They’ve hit more homers than anyone, so it won’t be automatic they get out-slugged in any short series. And seeing as hoe they get homers from everywhere, that makes their lineup just as hard to negotiate. It’ll be a coming out party for them in some fashion. Dylan Covey should probably just starting turning around and looking behind him now.

For the Sox, there probably is something to finishing the season strong, as after this they’ll have the long dead Tigers and recently probably dead Indians to finish out the campaign. 70 wins or 72 wins might not really matter, but it’s been a few years since the Sox eclipsed 70 wins and any step forward should be welcomed. The Twins will either already be daydreaming of October nights or hellbent on clinching ASAP to really start resetting their roster. If it’s the latter, then it’ll be worth watching how Lopez and Giolito do, not that the latter has anything to prove. Lopez kicked Cleveland’s dick in the dirt when they were hot on the trail, so maybe the brighter lights are what he needs.

And at least the Sox will be done with the Twins after this, laying the ground for bigger games with him as soon as next season, hopefully.

 

Baseball

vs.

 

Records: Twins 76-48   White Sox 55-68

Gametimes: Monday/Tuesday 7:10, Wednesday 12:10

TV: Monday WGN, Tuesday/Wednesday NBCSN

Where The Wild Things Are: Puckett’s Pond

 

Ugh, these assholes again.

Since the last meeting between these two teams (in which the Twins took three of four from the Sox) life has been somewhat of a mixed bag for the Towering Terror of the Twin Cities. After winning the series against the Sox, the Twins took two of three from Miami and swept the Royals. All good, right? Well then the Braves came to town and took the series against them, then shortly thereafter Cleveland showed up and not only took three of four, but tied them for 1st place in the Central in a Sunday afternoon matchup that saw Carlos Santana plunge the dagger in Taylor Rogers heart with a walk off grand slam in extra innings that wiped out a nice Twins comeback in the bottom of the 9th.

Unfortunately the dagger wasn’t made of silver, because since then the Twins have won five of six, including a four game sweep of the Rangers this past weekend and have retaken first place from the Tribe (who now sit 2.5 games behind). They just won’t die. The Twins still sit at 4th best in the AL for hitting, having fallen behind the Yankees only because the Yankees played the Orioles seven times so far in August alone. The Twins still inexplicably lead the entire league in slugging percentage at .499, almost a full .010 ahead of the second place Yankees. The fact that they’re able to power the ball so much when they play so many games in their stadium with the cavernous outfield is even more impressive. Marwin Gonzalez has caught fire after a slow start, having hit .362 since the page flipped to August. Max Kepler continues to hit for power, mashing 10 taters since he last saw the Sox. Byron Buxton is still on the IL with a laundry list of maladies, this time with his shoulder. It’s severe enough that the Twins aren’t expecting him back until at least the beginning of September.

The rotation for the Twins is still scuffling a bit as Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios both have seen their respective ERAs rise more than a point in the month of August. Michael Pineda has returned from his stint on the IL and righted the ship, having only given up 11 runs since the beginning of July, and despite his peripherals looking hilariously bad Jake Odorizzi has a 2.08 ERA so far this month and managed to shut down the Tribe in their only win that series.

The Twins bullpen has been a mixed bag since trading for some fresh faces at the deadline. Former closer now LOOGY Sergio Romo has appeared in nine games and given up three runs in that span, all in one game against the Braves. The other big acquisition Sam Dyson has gotten shelled out of the gate with his new team, giving up seven runs in 3.1 innings. In addition to that, closer Taylor Rogers hasn’t been as sharp as he was in May and June. He got charged with the loss against the Indians mentioned above and blew two other saves since the trade deadline. With Dyson being so shaky his job seems safe for the time being, however.

As for the Sox, they seem to have corrected the offensive malaise that infected them throughout the entire series with Oakland, having pounded out 40 runs in their last seven games. Ivan Nova has continued his excellent run since the All-Star break, having only given up 12 earned runs in 53 innings since the beginning of July. This has included some starts against pretty stalwart offenses like Houston, Philly, Cubs, and these Twins. I’ve said since the beginning that Nova would be a fine 5th starter on a contending team, and he’s making his case to stick around to see that possibility. The Sox will also toss out Lopez and Giolito, both of whom have had pretty good success since the break.

The key to this series is the same as it was against Houston last week. The starters need to keep the Twins big bats off the board, and the offense take advantage of a middling bullpen where they can. It’s looking like Yoan Moncada will be back for this series after his rehab stint in Charlotte, which will be a nice boost both offensively and defensively. Having him and Leury Garcia back in the lineup will make the Sox offense as potent as it’s been all year. Well, at least until Luis Robert gets here in a few weeks. Fuck the Twins, take two of three from them.

Lets Go Sox!