In college basketball a common adage is "win all your home games and split your road games, and you'll be in good shape." In baseball you might say it is "beat all the bad teams, and split against the decent teams, and you'll be in the mix." The Royals begin a six game road trip tonight that will take them to Minnesota and Houston, who could very well be the two worst teams in the American League. It is no longer good for the Royals to merely split on the road against bad teams. The Royals must dominate. Humiliate. Burn down the city of Minneapolis.
The Royals took 15 out of 19 games against the Twins last year, the first time they have finished with a winning season against those Northlanders since 2003. They went 8-2 at Target Field, twice sweeping a three-game series. A three-game sweep this weekend should be the goal. Why? Because the Minnesota Twins are a very bad team.
The Twins are dead last in the league in runs allowed, giving up over 6.5 runs per game, which would be a pace to allow 1000 runs for the year, a milestone not reached since the 1999 Colorado Rockies were playing silly ball. Twins pitchers have made opposing hitters look good to the tune of a .291/.367/.486 line for the year. They have walked the most hitters in the league, given up the third most home runs, and struck out the fourth fewest hitters. If pitching is the currency of baseball, the Twins own Beanie Babies.
Former Mizzou Tiger Kyle Gibson is one of the few to pitch well for the Twins, giving up a run on three hits in five innings in his only start. Since recovering from Tommy John Surgery, the former first round pick has had mixed results, and put up a 6.53 ERA in ten Major League starts last year. He matches up against Master Bruce Chen, who gave up just one run in six plus innings in his only start. Bruce has extra motivation the next few weeks as he is just three wins shy of passing Mariano Rivera for most wins by a Panamanian-born pitcher. Cooperstown seems to be a logical next stop.
If you think the Royals bullpen has been bad, the Twins bullpen has been equally bad with a 5.55 ERA. Twins hitters have scored a lot of runs - the second most in the league, but they are next-to-last in slugging percentage, and just ninth in OPS. They have drawn the second most walks with Joe Mauer predictably leading the way, but Mauer has also struck out an alarming eleven times and has yet to drive in a run this year. The RBI man instead has been former Independent League player Chris Colabello who has come out of nowhere to drive in eleven runs in this young season. He is the Twins regular designated hitter. This is not your old brother's Central Division-winning Twins of the early 00s.
The Twins are a bad team with names in their lineup like Suzuki, Pinto, and Arcia, more fitting for a car dealership than a Major League lineup. Still, the Royals cannot afford to overlook these guys. They held their own against the Tigers and Rays, which means its time to dominate some lesser opponents, or accept your fate as a .500 team.