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Red Sox at Twins Series Preview

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A look at the big three-game set on the road against baseball’s best team.

Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Twinkie Town

The Opponent in one sentence

The Twins have the best record and the best run differential in all of baseball thanks to an extremely powerful offense along with a very underrated pitching staff.

Record

47-23

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 0, Twins 0

Trend

Up, the same as it has been pretty much all year. The Twins have been playing some good baseball of late despite losing to the Royals on Sunday. They have won each of their last three series and seven of their last ten games. Going back even further, they’ve lost only two series since the start of May. They are very, very tough to beat right now.

Pitching Matchups

6/17: Rick Porcello vs. José Berríos, 8:10 PM ET

This is going to be a test for Rick Porcello, to say the least. It’s going to be a test for every Red Sox pitcher in this series because the Twins are very good at hitting, but for Porcello in particular it could be a dangerous matchup. No team in baseball heading into Sunday’s action had hit more home runs than the Twins in 2019 while Porcello has gotten through a start without allowing a long ball in just four of his fourteen starts to this point in the year. The righty has had home run problems ever since coming to Boston, and they’ve only been exacerbated by the extremely juiced baseballs around the league. Despite the issues with dingers Porcello has been mostly solid after his disastrous first two starts of the season, pitching to a fine 3.80 ERA in that time. The key for him is going to be limiting Minnesota to only one homer in this game and not allowing too many baserunners. That will also be a challenge, of course, as the Twins also have the third highest OBP in baseball.

It can be easy to forget José Berríos is only 25 years old because he was a top prospect so long ago and is already in the midst of his fourth season in the major leagues. He started to make good on his promise last season with his first career All-Star appearance and he’s been even better in 2019. Through the righty’s first 14 starts he has pitched to a 3.07 ERA, though his 3.74 FIP and 4.54 DRA paint more of a mediocre picture. For Berríos, it’s all about quality of contact. He’ll miss a solid number of bats and has shown very good control this year, but he can be very hittable at times. It just hasn’t been very often in 2019. The Red Sox are catching him at a bad time, too, as he’s allowed one earned run in three of his last four starts. Boston saw the young righty twice last year, scoring a combined four runs over 11 innings with 12 strikeouts and six walks. Berríos will feature a pair of fastballs that sit in the 92-94 range as well as a curveball and a changeup.

Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

6/18: David Price vs. Michael Pineda, 8:10 PM ET

This is going to be a really interesting start for Price, who for the most part has been phenomenal in 2019. As we’ve talked about many times over the last calendar year at this point, Price has become a new pitcher as he’s figured out how to pitch with reduced stuff. He’s putting more emphasis on his cutter and changeup and relying on pinpoint command, which has been exactly that for the majority of this season. However, that was decidedly not the case last time out against the Rangers when he was yanking everything hard to his arm side and recorded only four outs in a disaster outing. Price didn’t indicate anything was physically wrong after the start and by all accounts it was just one of those days. If he has another one, he will be punished emphatically.

We all remember Pineda from his Yankees days earlier in his career, but he’s dealt with major arm injuries the last few years and had only pitched a half-season in the previous two seasons leading into this one. After missing all of 2018, the righty was back and ready to pitch for the Twins in 2019. He has not looked great in his first year back. Over 13 starts he has pitched to a 5.04 ERA, a 4.80 FIP and a 6.68 DRA. The big issue is that he’s not missing bats like he has in the past and is also giving up a ton of fly balls, which does not play well in this era of baseball. He has stabilized a bit of late, and in fact allowed exactly three earned runs over six consecutive starts. That streak ended his last time out. Pineda is a three-pitch guy, throwing a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup.

6/19: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Kyle Gibson, 8:10 PM ET

We’ve been through this many, many times with Rodriguez before, but the lefty is starting to look good again. He did allow four runs over 5 23 against the Rays, but even that wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds and he’s been consistent of late. Of course, it seems every time we’re lulled into a false sense of security with Rodriguez he ends up taking a turn for the worse. As I said with the other two guys, this is a big test against a good and righty-heavy lineup for the Twins.

Gibson is firmly entering underrated territory over the last couple years, in part due to the extremely underwhelming start to his career. The righty was mediocre at best for most of the first five years of his career, but he took a big step forward last year and has maintained it in 2019. Through his first 13 starts this year Gibson has pitched to a 3.70 ERA, a 3.83 FIP and a 4.14 DRA. The big change last year as an increase in strikeouts for the righty, and he’s upped his rate even more this year while also cutting his walk rate to a career-low rate. Last season, the Red Sox faced Gibson twice and scored only three runs over 14 innings with 12 strikeouts and five walks. He will throw two fastballs, but primarily a two-seam, that sit in the 92-94 range as well as a slider, a curveball and a changeup.

Old Friends

None

Notable Position Players

Nelson Cruz was the big addition for the Twins this offseason, and while he missed some time early he has been every bit the impact bat they’d hoped for when healthy. He’ll strike out at a high rate, but when he makes contact it’s almost always loud and often goes a long way.

Jorge Polanco has actually been the best offensive shortstop in the American League by wRC+ — somewhat surprising given how well Xander Bogaerts has swung the bat. He’s done everything well, though, as he’s making a lot of contact, walking at a good clip, hitting for power and turning balls in play into hits.

Eddie Rosario is the home run leader on the team with the most home runs in all of baseball. His overall line isn’t as strong as one might think due to a low walk rate and BABIP, but he can make a big impact with any given swing.

Max Kepler got an extension before the season and the Twins have to be feeling good about that right now. The outfielder has shown great plate discipline while also adding big power en route to a 133 wRC+ this year.

Minnesota Twins v Cleveland Indians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Byron Buxton is finally starting to show the potential we’ve all been waiting for him since he was drafted. The outfielder is playing his typically great defense while also making more contact than ever and hitting for well above-average power.

Miguel Sanó has only played in 20 games this year, but when healthy he’s been a three true outcomes machine.

C.J. Cron is, well, like the rest of this lineup in that he is a power hitter, first and foremost. He’s been about average in every other facet offensively.

Jonathan Schoop is having a bounce-back year for the Twins after struggling in 2018. He still pretty much never walks, but he’s back to hitting the ball with authority.

Mitch Garver is only a part-time player behind the plate, but he has a 180 wRC+. With two lefties starting in this series for Boston, he will likely start the final two games.

Bullpen Snapshot

Taylor Rogers somewhat quietly had a breakout season last year in Minnesota’s bullpen and he’s only improved more in 2019. The lefty is the top reliever in this bullpen with over 11 strikeouts per nine innings and only two walks per nine. He does allow a few more home runs than you’d like, if you’re looking for a weakness.

Blake Parker was a free agent signing for the Twins this winter but he has been a rare struggling player in Minnesota. His strikeout rate is down, his walk rate is up and he’s already allowed six homers in 25 outings.

Trevor May has shown big potential as a late-inning arm for the Twins but has struggled to stay healthy over the last few years. He’s gotten good results this year, but he’s also struggled with control while watching his strikeout rate fall.

Injuries

Adalberto Mejia has been out for about a month with a calf injury, but he recently started up a rehab assignment.

Ronald Torreyes is another former Yankee on the Twins, isn’t injured but rather is on the restricted list for unknown reasons.

Weather Forecast

It’s looking like it should be a nice week in Minnesota. The only threat to baseball could be some showers on Monday, but it doesn’t appear it would cause more than a delay at the most.