SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
After sneaking into the playoffs last year some of the young players on the Twins have not performed as expected and they have been among the more disappointing teams in the game in 2018.
Red Sox 1, Twins 2
Up, a bit. The Twins are coming off a very successful series in Toronto ahead of this trip to Boston, having just swept the Blue Jays over three games. Of course, immediately before that they were swept themselves in three games against the Royals. So, they are on a bit of a hot streak but are just .500 in their six games since the break.
7/26: Brian Johnson vs. Kyle Gibson, 7:10 PM ET
At least for now, the plan is for this to be Johnson’s last start for a little while. With Nate Eovaldi’s addition to the roster, someone had to lose their rotation spot and Pomeranz got to keep his over Johnson. This doesn’t seem fair, but Johnson will get one more chance to really plead his case. The lefty has made four spot starts since the end of June and has yet to allow more than two runs in that span. Over 18 1⁄3 innings he has pitched to an impressive 2.45 ERA while allowing a .682 OPS. Johnson allowed one run in one inning of work out of the bullpen against the Twins back in June.
Gibson has, somewhat quietly, been a really good starting pitcher in 2018. After years of toiling away in mediocrity, the righty has transformed this year into a different guy, and it’s working out. The righty has a 3.57 ERA through his first 20 starts of the year, and his 3.87 FIP and 3.72 DRA suggest it’s not really out of whack with his true performance. He’s striking out more batters than ever, and while he’s sacrificing ground balls he’s actually limiting home runs at his best rate in a couple years. The Red Sox scored only two runs off him over six innings back in June, though Gibson has struggled a bit to the tune of a 4.45 ERA over five starts since then. Gibson will feature a pair of low-to-mid-90s fastballs along with a slider, a curveball and a changeup.
7/27: Chris Sale vs. Lance Lynn, 7:10 PM ET
Friday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. The Red Sox ace is obviously on another level right now, and with some of the other top pitchers in the American League hitting a bit of a snag, Sale is positioning himself as the clear favorite for the Cy Young. Obviously he has his eyes set on a different prize, but it’s absurd that he doesn’t have a Cy Young yet. Hopefully this is the year. He’s been great for the entire season, but his last eight starts in particular have been absurd. The southpaw has an 0.83 ERA over 54 innings with 87 strikeouts and just ten walks. That run includes allowing two runs over seven innings in Minnesota back in June.
Lynn was one of the more high-profile free agents who had to wait deep into last winter before finding a deal. After years of outperforming his peripheral metrics, Lynn has struggled mightily in his first season with the Twins. The righty has made 19 starts so far this season and possesses an ugly 5.23 ERA, and his 4.70 FIP only suggests mild improvement. Even worse, his DRA is somehow higher than his ERA, sitting at 6.95. Lynn is striking out plenty of batters, but his control has been totally out of whack and he’s become more hittable than ever. The good news for him and the Twins is that he’s been a bit better of late with a fine 3.94 ERA over his last three starts. The Red Sox managed just one unearned run off the righty when they met in June. Lynn will feature a mid-90s fastball, a low-90s sinker as well as a cutter.
7/28: Rick Porcello vs. Jake Odorizzi, 7:10 PM ET
Porcello continues what’s been an up-and-down season on Saturday, and hopefully he can keep his upward trajectory going. The righty has been especially inconsistent over the last month or so, but the optimistic view is that he needed the break to get back on track. Immediately prior to the All-Star festivities he had one of his worst starts in a Red Sox uniform, but he came back for his last outing with six impressive shutout innings. This start will be a test to see if he can keep that trajectory. In June he had one of his best starts of the year against the Twins, tossing seven shutout innings with just one hit allowed.
Red Sox fans should be plenty familiar with Odorizzi, as the righty spent the majority of his career to date with the Rays. He was dealt to Minnesota this winter, however, and he has been roughly the same as ever with his new team. Odorizzi has solid strikeout stuff and will go on runs in which he misses bats, but he’s often undone by a lack of command that leads to big hits and plenty of baserunners. He has a 4.37 ERA on the year, though it’s down to 2.63 over his last five starts. Odorizzi features a pair of low-90s fastballs along with a splitter and a slider.
7/29: Nate Eovaldi vs. Jose Berríos, 1:05 PM ET
Sunday will mark the Red Sox debut for Nate Eovaldi, who was of course just acquired in a trade with the Rays on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how the righty translated to Fenway Park as he’s had some home run issues in the past. However, he’s also spent the majority of his career in Yankee Stadium so it’s not as if he’s only thrown in big parks. It’s worth noting Eovaldi had a terrible outing against the Twins just prior to the break, allowing eight runs in just 2 2⁄3 innings.
Berríos is the best pitcher in the Twins rotation and among the most exciting young pitchers in the game. The 24-year-old righty has had a breakout year, pitching to a 3.48 ERA with peripherals to match over his first 21 starts. His home run rate could come down a bit, but it’s not at an egregious level and he matches it with plenty of strikeouts and good control. Berríos held the Red Sox to one run in 6 1⁄3 innings earlier in the year. He will feature a pair of mid-90s fastballs along with a curveball and a changeup.
Addison Reed was a midseason acquisition for the Red Sox last summer and ended up playing a key setup role down the stretch. He parlayed that performance (and a solid first half as the Mets’ closer) into a two-year deal with the Twins this year, though he’s been mostly disappointing in 2018.
Ryan Pressly is a potential trade target for the Red Sox and has quietly turned into one of the better right-handed relievers in the game. He never appeared in a major-league game for the Red Sox, but was an 11th round pick who was lost in the Rule 5 Draft.
Notable Position Players
Eddie Rosario has somewhat surprisingly been the best position player on the Twins this year and was a snub from the All-Star game. The outfielder doesn’t walk much but his aggressive approach has led to plenty of contact and much-improved pop. He also plays good defense and provides big-time value on the bases.
Eduardo Escobar has been another breakout for Minnesota this year and is a potential trade chip for them over the next week. The infielder is showing off huge power that has taken his game to another level.
Brian Dozier could be someone the Red Sox look to before the deadline, though he’s had a disappointing year with lower-than-usual power numbers and tough luck on balls in play.
Joe Mauer is certainly not the player he once was and has almost no power to his game, but he still possesses elite plate discipline and will get on base atop the Twins lineup.
Logan Morrison has been extremely disappointing after signing with Minnesota this past winter as his power has dropped off and his BABIP has fallen off a cliff.
Max Kepler is a solid hitter in the middle of the Twins order but he’s been held back all year by bad batted ball luck.
Jorge Polanco missed most of the year with a PED suspension, but he’s back now and is looking for his footing in terms of power.
Fernando Rodney is the Twins closer and is having a typical Fernando Rodney season. That is to say he has okay numbers but is bound to blow up in any given outing.
Pressly has been the best setup man for the Twins with a high strikeout rate and a good job of limiting hard contact.
Trevor Hildenberger is likely the closer of the future for Minnesota, or at least that would be their hope. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff but can be very good as long as his command is on point.
Zach Duke is the top lefty in the Twins bullpen and while there are some control issues he has an impressive combination of strikeouts and ground balls.
Reed has been out most of the month with tendinitis in his triceps but he could be back as soon as this series.
Michael Pineda is recovering from Tommy John surgery that underwent last summer and could begin a rehab assignment in a week or two.
Jason Castro is set to miss the entire season with a torn meniscus.
Aaron Slegers has been out of the rotation for a couple of weeks with inflammation in his shoulder, and his timeline to return is unclear.
It is going to be a humid weekend in Boston and there are thunderstorms in the area, but as of now the forecast looks like all of the game should get in for this series.