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Red Sox vs. Twins Series Preview

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A look at the big three-game set coming up at Fenway.

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 built themselves a comfortable lead heading into the final month of the year thanks in large part to the most powerful lineup in the game.

Record

85-52

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 2, Twins 1

Trend

Up. Part of the reason the Twins have managed to open up a lead in their division is because of the struggles from the Indians, but it’s not as if Minnesota is just coasting by. They’ve taken advantage of a soft portion of their schedule with their last five series being against the Rangers, White Sox and Tigers. Since this stretch has begun they have swept three of the series and won 13 of 17 overall.

Pitching Matchups

9/3: Rick Porcello vs. Randy Dobnak, 7:10 PM ET

Porcello has undoubtedly had a bad season in his final year under contract with the Red Sox, but to his credit he has turned things around. Things haven’t always been perfect over the last month, and he has surely benefited from a bit of a soft schedule, but the results are the results. Over his five starts in the month of August he allowed more than three runs only once and allowed fewer than three in three of the outings. Now, he hasn’t always gone as deep as he wanted, lasting only five innings in three of the five starts, and his ERA for the month was a solid but unspectacular 4.00. The point is, however, that he has given his team a chance to win these games, and the way this offense has been going that’s all they need. He’ll be tested in this one against a team that has already set the all-time single-season home run record. The good news is he was phenomenal when these two teams met in June, tossing seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts and a walk.

Boston Red Sox v Colorado Rockies Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Dobnak is a fascinating pitcher whose rise to the majors has been highly unique. The righty was undrafted out of college in 2017, but signed with the Twins shortly after that summer’s draft. Things have gone very smoothly since then. After spending all of 2018 in A-Ball, he started this season in High-A and has shot his way to the majors, where he has made three relief appearances. This will be his first career start, but he has looked good in his three bullpen appearances where he has tossed eight scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. He’s attributed his success shooting up the system to switching to a sinker instead of a four-seam. He’ll also throw a slider and a changeup.

9/4: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. José Berríos, 7:10 PM ET

In the midst of a breakout season, the most impressive part of the season for Rodriguez has simply been his ability to simply eat innings. He’s done a lot more than that most of the time, to be fair, but he’s also done a great job of focusing less on getting strikeouts and more on getting deep into games. The hope is obviously that at some point he’ll be able to merge the two ideas, but for now we’ll take this. Over his last three starts the southpaw has pitched to a 1.40 ERA over 19 13 innings with 15 strikeouts and six walks. He was solid in his last outing against the Twins, allowing four runs over seven innings with nine strikeouts and three walks.

When these two teams met as the first half was starting to wind down, Berríos was looking like one of the best pitchers in the American League and like a potential Cy Young candidate. Things have changed in the second half, and while his overall numbers still look good he has lost his mechanics of bit and the Twins are trying to get him back into form as they get ready for a probable playoff bid. He did look solid in his last start allowing three runs in six innings, but he’s coming off an August in which he pitched to a 7.57 ERA with 12 walks in 27 innings and six homers allowed in five starts. They are pushing him back a day to give him a bit of extra rest heading into this start. In June, Berríos allowed one run against the Red Sox over eight innings with ten strikeouts and just one walk in one of the best starts any pitcher has put forth against Boston this year. The righty will feature a fastball than can get up to the mid-90s along with a curveball, a sinker and a changeup.

9/5: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Martín Perez, 7:10 PM ET

After his first two starts after rejoining the rotation, it was fair to wonder if the Red Sox had made a mistake in putting Eovaldi back in that role rather than sticking with him in the bullpen. He wasn’t giving them innings or production despite playing the Orioles and Padres. The command just wasn’t there, and really nothing looked right. He eased those concerns last time out, though, showing his best stuff and command against the Angels. Eovaldi allowed one run over four innings in that start with eight strikeouts and a walk. He’ll look to repeat that kind of performance against a potent Twins lineup, and in a best-case scenario add an inning to this one.

After spending the rest of his career to this point with the Rangers, Perez is in the midst of his first season with the Twins and it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. He has a 4.89 ERA on the year, which isn’t as bad as it seems with today’s run environment but it’s still certainly not great. It seems like every time he has gotten on a little bit of a roll he has a start or two to take him out of it. Case in point: Prior to his last start he had allowed four earned runs over his previous three starts and 17 innings. Then he allowed seven earned runs in just 2 23 innings against the Tigers. The Red Sox will hope that negative momentum keeps up. Perez features a mid-90s sinker, a cutter, a changeup and a four-seamer.

Old Friends

None

Notable Position Players

Nelson Cruz has had an absolutely fascinating career as one of the best and most consistent hitters in the game throughout the second half of it. That has continued in 2019 with a 163 wRC+ and a .333 Isolated Power, an absurd number even in this homer-happy era.

Jorge Polanco got the starting nod over Xander Bogaerts in the All-Star Game. While the Red Sox shortstop has pulled ahead in the second half, but Polanco has been very good in his own right. He’s been an on-base machine with good power and good defense to boot.

Max Kepler is not going to hit a whole lot of singles, but he also doesn’t strike out much and he gets plenty of extra-base hits.

Eddie Rosario is an uber-aggressive swinger who is a blast to watch when he’s on. He has real power in the bat, but his style lends itself to inconsistencies.

Miguel Sanó is always going to have his ceiling limited a bit by his high strikeout rate, but with his power and patience he has more than enough to stay well above average.

C.J. Cron doesn’t walk as much as you’d like but he’s yet another big-time power hitter in this lineup.

Mitch Garver splits time behind the plate, but he’s been absurd with the bat with a .347 ISO in 300 plate appearances.

Jake Cave, well, he hits for power to make up for a high strikeout rate.

Luis Arraez is one of the few non-power hitters in this lineup but he has still been well above-average with the bat thanks to great plate discipline.

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Bullpen Snapshot

Taylor Rogers has been tremendous at the back of the Twins bullpen, getting a ton of strikeouts with great control. He does give up homers from time to time, but who doesn’t in 2019?

Sergio Romo came over to the Twins at the trade deadline. The righty has been outstanding since the move, showing off great control.

Sam Dyson was another midseason trade acquisition, but his command has been brutal and he has struggled since the trade.

Injuries

Kyle Gibson was just placed on the injured list with ulcerative colitis, which sounds very unpleasant.

Sean Poppen was just placed on the 60-day IL to open up a 40-man spot ahead of September call-ups.

Weather Forecast

It looks like it should be a good week at Fenway. The one issue could be on Wednesday, but judging by the current forecast it looks like that may be a late start at worst. There shouldn’t be any cancellations unless weather patterns change.