After spending the last couple of years creating a spark out of seemingly nowhere in one season and then waffling the next, it was up to this year’s Twins to prove that their roster did have the talent to compete, and prove that 2017 wasn’t a fluke. A prove it they have. It has taken the Yankees winning five straight games over the last week or so to surpass Minnesota for the best record in the American League, but the Twins still have the best run differential of any team that isn’t the Dodgers.
No team has scored more runs than the Twins, thanks to a team that has power all up and down the lineup. The team’s 157 home runs is seven ahead of the second place Mariners, who have needed five more games than the Twins’ to reach their total. The next highest American League team, the Yankees, currently have just 138. However, the Twins’ haven’t needed to sacrifice contact for power, a rarity in today’s game, as Minnesota has the fourth fewest number of strikeouts in all of baseball. While the team doesn’t run much, the offense is such a well oiled machine there hasn’t been a need to use small ball to keep the runs coming.
The offense is lead by an interesting and clearly effective mix of veterans and young studs. Names like Nelson Cruz stand out, as he has long played some of his best baseball against Oakland, and it isn’t surprising to see him with a .284/.372/.572 slash line to go with sixteen home runs. There is also Jorge Polanco, the shortstop with thirty nine extra base hits to pair nicely with an .899 OPS, and Eddie Rosario, the power hitting outfielder with twenty home runs. The offense is so stacked the Twins had no need for Luis Arraez on their roster, a rookie who has walked ten times compared to just four strikeouts in their first sixty big league at bats, OPSing 1.010.
Even their hitters with mediocre overall slashlines, of which there are very few, they still manage to be interesting. Willians Astudillo, who has gained quite the reputation in the big leagues for his Bartolo Colon-esque physique while flying around the bases and making acrobatic defensive plays, only has a .262/.283/.383 triple slash, has achieved that stat line in 130 at bats, where he has struck out only five times and walked only twice.
The Twins’ aren’t a one trick pony, as their pitching and defense would be the envy of most teams. Jose Berrios has truly come into his own as a pitcher and has 120 strikeouts in 112 innings pitched. For a while, Jake Odorrizi had the best ERA in all of baseball before hitting some bumps in the road in June, but his ten wins are still indicative of the success the team has had while he’s been pitching. Their starting pitching has stayed incredibly healthy as well, as the original starting five have only missed four collective starts all year. Their bullpen is remarkably short on gascans, as the team has only given up the lead late in games four times all year.
While it may be difficult to say who will win this series, one thing that is for certain: Even prior to the 4th of July, this series should be witness to some fireworks.
Max Kepler - RF
Jorge Polanco - SS
Nelson Cruz - DH
C.J. Cron - 1B
Marwin Gonzalez - LF
Jonathan Schoop - 2B
Miguel Sano - 3B
Jason Castro - C
Byron Buxton - CF
Daniel Mengden vs Jake Odorizzi
Tanner Anderson vs Kyle Gibson
Mike Fiers vs Jose Berrios
Game #87: Tuesday, July 2nd at 7:07
Game #88: Wednesday, July 3rd at 6:07
Game #89: Thursday, July 4th at 1:07
All games will be broadcast on NBCSCA.