The Minnesota Twins come into Fenway park with only a 7-7 record, but are coming off a 3 game sweep at the hands of the reeling Angels. This is a rare two game series, and will feature Scott Baker vs. Tim Wakefield followed by Francisco Liriano vs. Brad Penny.
The Twins are without Joe Mauer, who has been inactive due to a sore joint. He won't be back until around May 1st, so we certainly don't have to worry about him over the course of the next two days.
Minnesota boasts an impressive young rotation, highlighted by Liriano who we will see in game 2 on Wednesday. However, with a bull-pen that can be classified as average (minus Joe Nathan), the Sox should be able to continue their assault on opponent's pitching.
The lineup is also a little on the younger side, but features an mixture of speed and power that reminds me of the Rays to some degree. Denard Span and Carlos Gomez need to be kept off the base paths, especially when Wakefield is on the hill obviously. Thankfully however, like I said before we do not have to worry Mauer. Instead we will see Mike Redmond taking his spot behind the plate.
Let's face it, the Red Sox are very hot right now. Baker and Liriano are a combined 0-4 with ERAs of 13.50 and 5.09 respectively. The Red Sox should be able to be patient and get to the bullpen, and then do their damage there. The key in this series is whether or not Boston's starters show up. Penny didn't have his best stuff in his last start, but Wakefield certainly did. The Red Sox's 'pen has been tremendous lately and the bats are on fire, so it's going to come down to starting pitching to complete the "trifecta."
Minnesota is a well-rounded club. There isn't an aspect of the game both offensively and defensively that they don't do well to some degree. They have speed, play good defense, and can beat you with the long ball as well as small ball. Their versatility is what should scare Sox fans if anything.
With Redmond replacing Mauer, the Twins aren't as scary as they normally are offensively. This is not the same Twins team without his presence behind the dish, especially with such a young pitching staff that needs guidance. Other than that, their bullpen isn't what it used to be as it lacks the depth it had of years past.
The Twins' keys to 2009 success
Liriano needs to be the pitcher that he has shown he can be in the past. This guy has potential to be one of the most dominating pitchers in the league, if he can avoid the DL. The AL Central is wide open, if the Twins can manage to win anywhere near 90 games, they should be sniffing the playoffs.
How the Sox can beat them
Be patient with the starters, who are off to slow starts so far in 2009. It's only a two game series, followed by an off-day, so we should keep Penny on a short leash if he again struggles and use that dominant 'pen that we have. As for Wakefield...just do what you did in your last start.