Two games back of first. Four games against the division leader. No frills, no gimmicks, just a shot at first place in the AL Central. Sounds like a fun weekend.
Team in a box
2019 Minnesota Twins
The Twins have a bonkers offense, as you all know. They’re tied with the Yankees with the second best offense in the league (trailing just the Astros). The pitching has yet to fall off a cliff. I was told the pitching would fall off a cliff. I’m hoping that this weekend is the weekend that their pitching falls off a cliff.
Thursday, August 8 8:10 p.m. ET: RHP Kyle Gibson (v. Mike Clevinger)
After two years of pitching well below average, Kyle Gibson turned things around in 2018 and the renaissance has continued into this season. Across 123.0 innings in 23 games (22 starts), Gibson has allowed 55 earned runs while walking 35 and striking out 124 (ERA+ 114). He works mainly with his two-seam fastball (94 mph), but he’ll also toss in a slider (85 mph) and a fourseam (94 mph) to go along with a change (86 mph) and curve (81 mph). His most recent start came on August 3 against the Royals; in that game, Gibson went 6.2 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 6.
Friday, August 9 8:10 p.m. ET: LHP Devin Smeltzer (v. Shane Bieber)
This is Devin Smeltzer’s first year in the majors and, in his limited time, he has done extremely well. Across 27.2 innings in 5 games (3 starts), Smeltzer has allowed just 7 earned runs while walking 5 and striking out 21 (SSS assisted ERA+ 202). He works mainly with his upper-80s fastball (89 mph), but he’ll toss out a curve (77 mph) and a change (83 mph) as well. His most recent start came on August 4 against the Royals; in that game, Smeltzer went 6.0 innings and allowed no runs on 2 hits while walking 1 and striking out 4.
Saturday, August 10 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Jake Odorizzi (v. Adam Plutko)
Jake Odorizzi has really stepped up in 2019 and is in the midst of his best season. I always assume Odorizzi is much older than he is, but he’s only 29 (breaking into the majors at age 22 will do that for you). This year, he pitched well enough to earn a spot on the AL All-Star Team, the first time he’s been awarded those honors. So far, across 114.2 innings in 22 starts, Odorizzi has allowed 46 earned runs while walking 40 and striking out 120 (ERA+ 127). He’ll mainly use a fourseam fastball (93 mph) and a sinker (93 mph), but he’ll mix in a splitter (86 mph), slider (85 mph), curve (76 mph), and cutter (87 mph) to keep hitters guessing. And it seems to be working. His most recent start came on August 5 against the Braves; in that game, Odorizzi went 6.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 3 and striking out 7.
Sunday, August 11 2:10 p.m. ET: RHP Jose Berrios (v. Aaron Civale)
Nothing like saving the best for last, right? The Minnesota rotation has done exceedingly well this season, and its thanks in large part to the work of Jose Berrios. He was on the All-Star Team for a second year in a row, and his work this season is several notches above what he’s been able to accomplish in previous years. Across 147.1 innings in 23 starts, Berrios has allowed 53 earned runs while walking 18 and striking out 140 (ERA+ 141). He’s got a good fastball (94 mph), curve (81 mph), and sinker (93 mph), and he’ll also toss in a change (83 mph) to go along with his main trio of pitches. His most recent start came on August 6 against the Braves; in that game, Berrios went 5.2 innings and allowed 9 earned runs on 9 hits while walking 4 and striking out 7. More of this, please.
DH Nelson Cruz: How is Nelson Cruz still this damn good? At age 38, you would expect him to be slowing down. But no, he’s in the middle of arguably the best season of his career (from an offensive standpoint). By wRC+, he’s only had one season better (2008), and he only had 133 plate appearances that year. This season, across 371 plate appearances in 86 games, Cruz is slashing .296/.386/.654 (wRC+ 165). It may be best to just avoid Cruz entirely this weekend, especially since he leads his team with 32 home runs.
C Mitch Garver: Mitch Garver is having a breakout season after playing in 100+ games last season for the first time in his young career. He’s had a bit more time behind the plate this season than Jason Castro, but it’s still pretty close to evenly split. But if Garver keeps hitting as well as he is, he’ll be getting the vast majority of playing time moving forward. Across 240 plate appearances in 61 games, Garver is slashing .274/.357/.619 (wRC+ 149). After hitting 7 home runs a year ago, Garver currently has 21 in 2019.
3B Miguel Sano: It was a tough year for Sano last year, but it looks like he’s course corrected and things are going well for him again. Sure, he’s still striking out 35% of the time, but when he connects with the baseball watch out. Across 265 plate appearances in 65 games, Sano is slashing .247/.340/.571 (wRC+ 132). He, too, has 20 home runs to his name in 2019.
Minnesota Twins roster
Will the Indians be in first place of the AL Central by the end of the weekend?
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