SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Twins’ surprising season has continued and they remain at the top of the AL Central despite the third-worst run differential in the American League.
Red Sox 2, Twins 1
Up. If the Red Sox had been playing Minnesota just one week earlier, they’d be catching them as cold as they’ve been all season. However, they’ve been outstanding over the last week, winning five of their last six games. That streak includes a sweep of the Indians this past weekend to put the Twins back atop the AL Central.
6/26: Chris Sale vs. Jose Berrios, 7:10 PM ET
Monday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. The ace of the Red Sox staff is back to throwing his best stuff after a brief stretch of being merely good, and he’s tallied ten strikeouts in each of his last two outings. It’s worth noting, though, that the Twins have given him a strange amount of trouble over his career and they had a decent amount of success against the lefty when they faced off in early May.
Berrios, once arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball, wasn’t yet on the major-league roster when these two teams last met but the young righty was called up shortly following that series. This is his second stint in the majors after he struggled in 14 starts last season, but he’s been amazing this time around. Through his first eight starts he’s pitched to a 2.67 ERA with a 3.29 FIP and a 2.90 DRA. He’s allowed exactly two runs in each of his four June starts and has allowed two or fewer runs in six of his eight starts on the season. The 23-year-old will feature a couple of mid-90s fastballs along with a low-80s curveball that can dismantle hitters.
6/27: Drew Pomeranz vs. Hector Santiago, 7:10 PM ET
Pomeranz continued his upswing the last time out against the Royals and he’s now allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his last eight starts. This doesn’t tell the whole story, of course, and he’s still having trouble being consistently efficient, but he has pitched into the seventh in each of his last two starts. As I wrote about last week, the key for the southpaw is going to be his cutter. If he can work that into his repertoire, he can be expected to have much more success.
Santiago has been out for most of June with a shoulder injury but is expected to come off the disabled list for Tuesday night’s game. Before the injury, the lefty tossed 65 innings over 13 outings (12 starts) and...they didn’t go so well. He’s the owner of a 5.26 ERA with a 5.91 FIP and a 7.68 DRA, and he’s had major command problems while also experiencing a step back in terms of stuff. He leans heavily on a low-90s fastball along with a low-to-mid-80s changeup and sparingly mixes in a handful of other secondaries. Expect a lot of fly balls and hittable pitches from Santiago, which should be good news for the Red Sox.
6/28: Rick Porcello vs. Adalberto Mejia, 7:10 PM ET
Porcello had possibly his most encouraging start of the season last time out against the Angels. By watching him all year, we know his biggest issue has simply been leaving too many pitches over the middle of the plate to go with a lack of deception on some of his pitches. Something changed this past weekend as he was commanding two-seamer as well as he has all season and it kept Los Angeles off balance all night long. We’ll need to see it more than once to be convinced this Porcello is here to stay, but there’s reason for optimism with the 2016 Cy Young winner for the first time in a while.
Mejia is a 24-year-old lefty who is essentially in his first major-league season (he made one bullpen appearance in 2016). He’s made ten starts over the course of this year and has pitched to a 4.93 ERA with a 5.84 FIP and a 5.27 DRA. On the one hand, he’s only imploded once this season and generally keeps the Twins in the game. On the other hand, he rarely pitches deep into games and looks like a guy who is very hittable. He struggles mightily with command, walking more than five batters per nine innings and allowing nine home runs in 45 innings of work. He does have solid strikeout stuff, for what that’s worth. Mejia throws two low-to-mid-90s fastballs to go with a slider and a changeup.
6/29: David Price vs. Kyle Gibson, 7:00 PM ET
Price’s last start against the Angels wasn’t quite as encouraging as Porcello’s, but it was still very solid and a step in the right direction. Oddly enough, the biggest issue for Price in 2017 has been his control, which is typically one of his biggest strengths. He only walked one batter on Saturday, though, and generally had better command than he’s had in most of his starts since returning from the disabled list. There’s still work to be done, and hopefully he can build off his last start and continue to trend in the right direction.
A couple years ago, Gibson looked like a really solid pitcher ready for a solid career in the majors. Now, it’s not looking as promising. Through his first 13 starts in 2017, the righty has a 6.23 ERA, a 5.59 FIP and a 6.94 DRA. The one thing Gibson has always been good at, and continues to be good at in 2017, is inducing ground balls. Beyond that, things are bleak. He doesn’t strike out many batters, he allows a ton of free passes and when opponents do hit it in the air it leaves the yard quite often. Gibson is a sinker-heavy pitcher who also throws a four-seamer, a changeup, a slider and a curveball.
Craig Breslow, who of course contributed to the 2013 championship, has struggled in Minnesota and may not be long for this roster. He has a 4.82 ERA with a 4.84 FIP and an 8.13 DRA over 28 innings this season. He’s never been a big strikeout pitcher, but his stuff is falling towards an unacceptable level and he’s also struggling with command. At 36-years-old he’s had a solid career, but it’s likely almost over.
Justin Haley was a Rule 5 draft pick this past winter and has tossed 18 innings over 10 appearances this season. He’s not a future star, but he’s solid enough across-the-board to think there’s a future back-end starter here, although he’s spent this season in the bullpen. The righty has been on the disabled list for about a month, and it’s not clear when he’s set to return.
Miguel Sano is easily the best hitter on the Twins roster thanks to strong patience, incredible power and consistently loud contact. He does strike out quite a bit and he’s currently carrying an unsustainable batting average on balls in play, but even when the regression monster comes for the young third baseman he’ll be good enough to hit in the middle of just about any lineup in baseball.
Brian Dozier was a trade candidate all winter but Minnesota couldn’t find the right deal and kept the second baseman. It turned out to be a wise choice, as even if he hasn’t been able to repeat his breakout 2016 he still possesses strong plate discipline to go with big-time power in the middle infield.
Joe Mauer will never be the star he once was, but he’s still a solid-average hitter with strong contact skills.
Max Kepler is a solid young outfielder with real potential but has gotten worse as the year’s gone on. The key with him will be patience, and if the Red Sox can make him swing at bad pitches they’ll be able to keep him at bay.
Byron Buxton is still trying to make good on his sky-high potential, but he just hasn’t been able to show off the contact skills needed to do so. At the very least, he’s a dynamic defensive player who can wreak havoc on the bases when he does reach.
Robbie Grossman has quietly been very good for Minnesota this year, largely thanks to plate discipline that has resulted in more walks than strikeouts for the outfielder.
Eduardo Escobar doesn’t really have a standout tool, but he’s been a positive for them at shortstop thanks to being solid-to-above-average in all areas this season.
Eddie Rosario is an aggressive hitter with solid contact skills and a little bit of pop.
Brandon Kintzler is one of the most surprising closers in all of baseball. The righty hardly strikes anyone out but induces a ton of weak contact and avoids base runners by limiting walks. I’m still not sure how long he can keep this up, but it’s been working for a couple years now.
Taylor Rogers has emerged as the primary setup option in Minnesota, and he’s another reliever who relies more on weak contact and ground balls. The difference with Rogers is that he throws from the left side.
Tyler Duffey probably has the most potential in this underwhelming bullpen, but he has had lapses in command all year long.
Matt Belisle is still getting high-leverage chances despite a low strikeout rate and a quickly-rising walk rate.
It’s been all downhill for Phil Hughes after his solid start against the Red Sox in May. He struggled in his next three outings and was eventually placed on the disabled list with shoulder troubles. He’s on a rehab assignment and should be back in the Twins rotation relatively soon.
Glen Perkins, the former Twins closer, has been out all season with a shoulder injury. He was hoping to be back around now, but he recently suffered a setback and will be out for at least a couple more weeks.
Trevor May should be the most talented arm in Minnesota’s bullpen but was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery late in spring training. He’ll miss the entire season.
Ryan O’Rourke is another reliever who has been out all year and will miss the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Ehire Adrianza is a utility player who has not gotten much playing time this season and was placed on the disabled list last week with an abdominal injury.
It appears we’re looking at a nice week coming up in Boston. Day-time temperatures are expected to be in the 80s for all of these games and there’s no threat of rain cancelling any of the four games.