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Series Preview: Red Sox at Twins

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A look ahead to the three-game set in Minnesota.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Twinkie Town

The Opponent in one sentence

The Twins were a surprise wildcard team one year ago but it’s been a disappointing 2018 for Minnesota due to poor performances in close games along with mediocre-at-best numbers both on the mound and at the plate.

Record

31-37

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 0, Twins 0

Trend

Up, very slightly. It’s particularly up if you choose to factor in how they’d been playing early in the year, but the Twins are mostly holding serve around .500 of late. They’ve won five of their last ten overall and are coming off a series victory in Cleveland, though that was preceded by back-to-back series losses at the hands of Detroit and Los Angeles.

Pitching Matchups

6/19: Chris Sale vs. José Berríos, 8:10 PM ET

Tuesday is the best pitching matchup of this series and has the potential to be a real low-scoring duel. Sale is obviously amazing, and after a little hiccup a couple weeks ago he’s back on his grind. The lefty has been cranking up his fastball velocity of late and is making hitters look downright silly night in and night out. Minnesota did hand Sale his first “bad” start of 2017, so there’s always potential for a surprise, but the lefty is rolling and obviously deserves the benefit of the doubt right now.

Berríos has long been one of the most intriguing young pitchers in all of baseball, and he’s finally putting it together this season. Through his first 14 starts of the year, the 24-year-old has a 3.51 ERA (118 ERA+) along with a 3.33 FIP and a 3.35 DRA. There are some occasional home run problems, but he strikes out about a batter per inning with elite control. He’s been outstanding over the last month or so, too, pitching to a 2.47 ERA over his last six starts with 51 strikeouts in 43 innings while allowing a .560 OPS. Berríos will throw both a four-seamer and a sinker, both in the mid-90s, along with a curveball and the occasional changeup.

6/20: David Price vs. Lance Lynn, 8:10 PM ET

Sale has been great for a couple of starts now, but Price takes the mound on Wednesday and is arguably the hottest pitcher in the rotation depending on how much stock you put into the length of a run. Over his last seven starts he has pitched to an impressive 2.64 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 14 walks and 44 innings while allowing a .586 OPS. There is still a little worry given how heavily Price is leaning on his fastball and cutter without throwing anything truly off-speed, but as long as he continues with the command he’s shown during this run he’ll be just fine.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Lynn was one of the relatively high-profile free agents who was left waiting deep into the offseason before finally signing a deal with the Twins in mid-March. Things have not gone very well for the veteran righty in his first year with his new team. The 31-year-old has made 13 starts this season and has an ugly 4.98 ERA (83 ERA+). His FIP is a little better at 4.23, but DRA had him as being much worse than his ERA with a 6.46 mark. Lynn has surprisingly been getting more strikeouts than any other point in his career, but he’s proven very hittable and is also walking more than five batters per nine innings. All that being said, Lyn has been turning things around. Over his last five starts he has a 2.01 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 12 walks in 31 innings of work. The righty will feature both a four-seamer and a sinker in the low-to-mid-90s to go with a cutter and some rare offspeed offerings.

6/21: Rick Porcello vs. Kyle Gibson, 1:10 PM ET

It continues to be a weird season for Porcello, which isn’t the same as saying it’s been a bad year. The righty and 2016 Cy Young winner has been mostly solid this year and is safely above-average by pretty much every metric. That being said, he’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. As always, he’s been a good bet to go deep into a game more often than not, it’s just a matter if he allows four or five runs while doing it. He hasn’t really blown up at all over his last four starts, but he hasn’t looked dominant at all either.

Gibson has somewhat quietly been one of the more surprising breakouts in baseball this year and has been a solid member of Minnesota’s rotation. In his age-30 season, the righty has improved his strikeout rate by two full Ks per nine innings and has a 127 ERA+ through his first 14 starts. To go with his 3.27 ERA he has a 3.77 FIP and a 3.81 DRA, so this doesn’t appear to be very fluky despite how unexpected it is. Over his last four starts he’s been particularly great with a 1.69 ERA. Gibson throws both a four-seamer and a sinker, both in the low-to-mid-90s, along with a changeup and a slider.

Old Friends

Addison Reed was, of course, brought in by Dave Dombrowski at the trade deadline last season to provide some stability ahead of Craig Kimbrel. Reed wasn’t always great with the Red Sox, but he was good more often than not and that got him a solid contract with the Twins this year. He’s had some home run problems but the righty, again, has been good more often than not.

Notable Position Players

Brian Dozier is the biggest star on this Twins team right now, but he’s suffered through a bit of a down year in 2018. The second baseman is showing off strong plate discipline as always, but he’s suffered through a major drop off in power. I’d expect that to pick up at some point, but hopefully it’s after this series.

Joe Mauer is not the future Hall of Famer he once was, but he’s still a really solid hitter even without any power in his game. He walks more than he strikes out and when he puts the ball in play it’s often well-hit and finds a hole.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Eddie Rosario has been the best player on the Twins this year. The outfielder has a very aggressive approach at the plate and it’s worked for him in 2018, producing big power numbers. He’ll also create value on the bases.

Eduardo Escobar has been another major surprise for Minnesota this year with huge power and just a lot of hard contact in general.

Logan Morrison had a huge year for the Rays in 2017, but his power has fallen off in a big way to start 2018 with the Twins.

Max Kepler will walk a ton and barely ever strikes out, but he’s never been able to put up even average batting averages on balls in play and it’s held down his overall numbers.

Robbie Grossman hasn’t had a big year for Minnesota but he’s been a platoon player this year and with the Red Sox sending out a pair of lefties for this series we should see plenty of him this week.

Bullpen Snapshot

Fernando Rodney is the Twins closer this year and he’s doing typical Rodney things. He’s good for just long enough to keep his job in the ninth inning but he’s a threat to blow up and blow a save every time he gets a chance.

Reed and Ryan Pressly form the bridge to Rodney in the eighth and while neither are stars or lock to hold a lead a team could certainly do a lot worse than these two.

Zach Duke is the top lefty for the Twins and while he can lose control at times his combination of strikeouts and grounders is ideal for his role.

Injuries

Byron Buxton is still looking for his major breakout, but he struggled mightily to start this year and has been on the disabled list with a toe injury since late-May. He’s expected to start a rehab assignment on Tuesday.

Jorge Polanco was suspended for 80 games due to a failed PED test to start this season. He’s eligible to return at the start of July, but he apparently cut his finger on a car door and now may not be ready when he’s first eligible.

Ervin Santana has yet to pitch this season due to a throwing injury and had a rehab assignment cut short in May. Now, he’s about to get back to throwing catch.

Michael Pineda is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will be out for at least a few more moths if he returns this season at all.

Jason Castro is out for the entire season with a torn meniscus.

Weather Forecast

Target Field somewhat controversially doesn’t have a roof, but that shouldn’t come into play this week. Although there is some small chance of rain throughout this series, it shouldn’t come to fruition and certainly not to the extent that it would cancel any games.