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Series #42: Athletics at Twins - Take a Deep Breath

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MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Twins’ Current Record:

60-66, second place in the AL Central division. The Twins have a strong record at home, at 38-26.

Projected Lineup:

Joe Mauer - 1B

Logan Forsythe - 2B

Eddie Rosario - LF

Jorge Polanco - SS

Max Kepler - CF

Robbie Grossman - DH

Jake Cave - RF

Ehire Adrianza - 3B

Bobby Wilson - C

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Kohl Stewart - RHP

Jake Odorizzi - RHP

Stephen Gonsalves - LHP

Jose Berrios - RHP

Recent Bullpen Usage:

In what was an unexpectedly hard fought series against the White Sox earlier in the week, the Twins had to rely rather heavily on their bullpen. Fortunately for the Twins, while six of their eight relievers have thrown at least twenty pitches over the last two or three days, only one of those instances was last night, and the team can afford to lean on the bullpen for a little longer.

Hottest Hitter(s):

For the season, Eddie Rosario has been the Twins best overall hitter, leading the team in home runs, with twenty two, and hitting to the tune of an .816 OPS as a whole. While he isn’t likely going to ever replace the production of the much beloved Brian Dozier, Logan Forsythe has made the transition easier for Minnesota fans as he has reached base at a .434 clip since he was traded.

Coldest Hitter(s):

While the Twins had one of the most electric offenses in baseball in last season’s second half, much like the A’s, the Twins haven’t quite had the same magic in this season’s second half, not much like the A’s. Logan Morrison was batting just .148 before going down with season ending surgery, and Ehire Adrianza is still starting almost every day despite OPS’ing just .543.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

With the offense not quite where Minnesota wants and needs it to be, for the team to be competitive the pitching needed to take a step forward. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson have taken those steps forward, each pitcher making exactly twenty six starts, pitching 158.2 innings in total, with an ERA in the mid 3.60’s. While neither is pitching like an ace, their consistency and experience are vital in supporting a staff that is sorely lacking in consistency and experience.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

Beyond the two above mentioned guys, for the rest of the pitching staff the Twins are throwing whatever they can at the rotation and bullpen to see who can stick, and it isn’t going all too great. The bullpen has no viable replacement for Fernando Rodney, now that he wears the green and gold, making the team very vulnerable in the late innings of the game, and many of the rookies being thrown into the fire in the starting rotation, like Kohl Stewart and Stephen Gonsalves, are mostly just getting burned.

Key Injuries:

The Twins certainly haven’t been helped by injuries. Ervin Santana and Michael Pineda have each had entirely lost seasons, and probably won’t be back until 2019. On offense, catcher Jason Castro is out indefinitely, and his presence will sorely be missed. Logan Morrison, as noted previously, is out for the rest of the year, but whether or not his presence will be missed is questionable, as he was struggling all year to stay above the Mendoza line.

* * *

It’s not all too often that two teams will meet for the first time this far into the season’s second half, as it took nearly 130 games for the A’s and Twins to finally meet. The two teams were on similar trajectories last season, and even had similar playing styles, strengths, and weaknesses, but while the A’s have ascended into one of the best teams in baseball within one of baseball’s strongest divisions, the Twins have stalled out in one of baseball’s weakest divisions. With lots of pop and one of the higher average launch angles in all of baseball, the Twins young lineup still features lots of potential and can absolutely play a role in being a spoiler for a contender. Fortunately for Oakland, the Twins are one of the few teams for which the A’s, even on paper, clearly have a stronger staff.

After playing several series against division rivals over the last couple of weeks, taking a trip to the AL Central is almost like a breath of fresh air. The A’s absolutely must continue their winning ways, of course, but in all likelihood the playoff-esque atmospheres of the last two weeks will likely dissipate a bit. Just one game back of the Astros, who are set to play the Angels starting on Friday, the division title is tantalizingly close, and the Twins are the wrong team to get complacent against. There is a good chance that this series will feature a lot of runs.

Game #128: Thursday, August 23rd, 5:10 - NBCSCA, FSNO, MLB.tv

Trevor Cahill vs Kohl Stewart

Cahill’s road woes are well documented at this point, and so Thursday night’s game can serve as a relatively low-pressure test to see if he can right the ship before the playoffs begin. Cahill pitched seven innings in his last start, only allowing one hit. Cahill’s opponent, Stewart, has pitched seven innings combined in his first two major league starts, surrendering six total runs.

Game #129: Friday, August 24th, 5:10 - NBCSCA, FSNO, MLB.tv

Sean Manaea vs Jake Odorizzi

If Manaea can last 3.1 innings or more in his next start, he will surpass his innings total from last season. Oddly enough, despite throwing a no hitter and possessing one of the higher overall ceilings on the staff, Manaea has been the weakest link in the starting rotation of late, which is just as much to the credit of the guys around him than it is the credit of Manaea’s general struggles. Knowing what Manaea is capable of, however, means that the team has a chance in every start he makes. Odorizzi is remarkably consistent on the mound, his ERA hardly fluctuating all season long, so while Manaea’s starts are a bit of a mystery box, one can assume Odorizzi will give the team five or six innings while giving up three or four runs.

Game #130: Saturday, August 25th, 4:10 - NBCSCA, FSNO, MLB.tv

Mike Fiers vs Stephen Gonsalves

Fiers has been better at preventing runs from crossing home plate better than almost any other starting pitcher in the sport since June, more or less, and he has continued that trend in his three starts with the A’s. There is a very good chance that the A’s could give Fiers the ball in their first game of the postseason. Stephen Gonsalves is one of the Twins’ better prospects, but he was beaten up badly in his major league debut, not even lasting two innings. The A’s should expect Gonsalves to perform better in his next effort, but they should also look to feast on a pitcher who may not quite be ready for the show quite yet.

Game #131: Sunday, August 26th, 11:10 - NBCSCA, FSNO, MLB.tv

Brett Anderson vs Jose Berrios

As it turns out, a chance meeting in an Arizona gym during spring training wound up netting the A’s a guy who has given up just two runs in his last twenty seven innings pitched. Anderson is finally pitching like the ace people thought he would become nearly a decade ago, and has done a pretty decent job staying on the field to boot. Relying less heavily on his devastating slider and upping his changeup usage, Anderson’s new approach on the mound has paid major dividends. Jose Berrios is the best starting pitcher that the Twins have to offer, and the A’s will have to be on their A-game in order to end their streak of losing the final game of a series.