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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: The Royals try to play spoiler

The Twins no longer have a massive division lead and the Royals will try to shrink it even more.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox
Jul 27, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (25) reacts after hitting a double against the Chicago White Sox during the third inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have 52 games left and 10 of them are against the Minnesota Twins, but in a fun flaw, after the three they play this weekend in Minneapolis, they won’t see them again until the last two weeks of the season. The Twins stranglehold on the American League Central that they had the last time these two teams played is gone. They still hold the top spot, but the Indians push has made this a race and the Twins have to hope they can keep it together. They do have that silly offense that’s on pace to obliterate the big league record for home runs, so they have that going for them. They also have a very solid starting rotation with a legitimate ace at teh top and some new depth in their bullpen after the trade deadline to add to a group that had already been pretty good for the most part. This is a very good team. Are they better than the Indians? That’s what we’ll find out over the final eight and a half weeks.

Meet the Twins

Royals vs. Twins Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .364 .611
Team wRC+ 86 116
Team xFIP 4.88 4.37
2019 H2H Wins 3 6
H2H Runs 42 40
Run Differential -98 128
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 2.7 Max Kepler, 3.7

Twins Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Max Kepler RF 451 .265 .339 .553 9.5% 15.7% 129 3.7
Jorge Polanco SS 481 .299 .358 .500 8.3% 15.4% 122 3.3
Nelson Cruz DH 344 .283 .376 .603 11.0% 27.0% 151 2.5
Eddie Rosario LF 384 .281 .307 .519 3.9% 13.3% 110 1.2
Miguel Sano 1B 243 .246 .342 .573 12.8% 35.8% 134 1.8
Luiz Arraez 3B 166 .349 .422 .445 10.8% 7.8% 135 1.3
Jonathan Schoop 2B 351 .254 .302 .459 7.6% 25.4% 96 1.0
Jason Castro C 187 .250 .333 .482 10.2% 27.8% 112 1.5
Byron Buxton CF 295 .262 .314 .513 6.4% 23.1% 111 2.6

Twins Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Mitch Garver C 230 .282 .365 .629 10.0% 25.7% 154 2.5
Ehire Adrianza INF/OF 170 .275 .371 .415 10.0% 15.3% 110 0.6
Marwin Gonzalez INF/OF 353 .251 .320 .408 7.6% 22.4% 91 1.2

Twins Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Taylor Rogers 42 50.1 2 2 31.7% 4.4% 2.15 3.00 1.6
Sergio Romo 39 38.2 2 0 21.3% 8.1% 3.49 5.19 0.4
Sam Dyson 50 51.0 4 1 23.5% 4.5% 3.00 3.51 1.1

Probable Starting Pitchers

Friday August 2nd - 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Glenn Sparkman 20 84.0 3 7 12.8% 5.7% 5.25 5.50 -0.4
Martin Perez 21 111.0 8 4 20.1% 9.5% 4.38 4.48 1.8

Game one pits the Royals against Martin Perez, a pitcher they’ve had some success against this season. He came roaring out of the gates with new velocity and a new ability to get swings and misses. He had a strikeout per inning in his first 53 innings and was sporting a 2.89 ERA. Since then, the strikeouts have started to really fall off with just 44 in his next 58 innings and he has a 5.74 ERA in that time. Early in the season, he was using a cutter that was helping him navigate lineups. In April, he threw it about one-third of the time and gave up a .061 average with no extra base hits. In May, it was a .182 average with just three extra base hits. But starting in June, its effectiveness began to waver and he started throwing it less. His sinker has still been effective, but the cutter hasn’t been getting him nearly as many outs and he’s been beat badly on his changeup and four-seam fastball. He’s faced the Royals twice this year and they’ve gotten to him both times with 11 runs against him in 11.2 innings, so they seem to have a formula if they can keep it going in this one.

Glenn Sparkman had that crazy home/road split for a long time, but if you can’t miss bats, it’s going to catch up with you no matter how big your home park is. He put the Royals in an early hole with a grand slam allowed to the first batter against the Indians and then allowed two more home runs to give up eight runs in five innings. He did have six swinging strikes which was actually his fifth most as a starter this season, but he’s now allowed 16 home runs in his last 53 innings and is facing the most powerful team in all of baseball, which seems like a recipe for disaster. He faced the Twins in Minnesota in June and allowed five runs in five innings with two home runs. He then turned around and faced them at home and allowed just one run with one home run in seven innings. So he’s had success against them at least, which means we know it’s possible. It just may not be probable in this one.

Saturday August 3rd - 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Danny Duffy 17 95.2 5 5 20.7% 8.3% 4.42 5.04 1.0
Kyle Gibson 21 116.1 10 4 23.8% 6.7% 4.10 3.67 2.4

It’s always Kyle Gibson. The Royals have had so much trouble with Gibson over the years, even when he wasn’t good, which is no fun. Now he is good and getting strikeouts and not walking guys and it’s a scary proposition for the Royals. He hasn’t been great necessarily with a 4.10 ERA, but he’s getting a lot of swings and misses and keeping the ball on the ground quite a bit when there’s contact. That’s a really nice formula for success in baseball in 2019. Where he’s found so much success is using his slider more effectively than he used to. He throws it about 22 percent of the time and gets swings and misses on it on more than half the swings against it. Only 19 percent of the sliders he’s thrown end up in the strike zone and yet he gets swings on more than half. So yeah, you do the math. If you can pick the ball up out of his hand and see it’s a slider, just don’t swing. It seems so easy, but he makes it so tough with it being a very good pitch. You just hardly ever see a spinner from him with literally 1.7 percent of his sliders in the middle of the zone. Against the Royals, he’s 8-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 20 career starts and 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA in two starts this season, including an absolute gem he threw the last time the Royals were in Minnesota, so there’s a pretty good chance the Royals offense is in trouble again in this one.

Danny Duffy found himself in similar trouble to Sparkman in his last start against Cleveland, down 3-0 after three batters. But two things were different. One, he settled in much better and only allowed two more runs (one earned) over his final five innings. And two, the offense nickeled and dimed Trevor Bauer to the point that the Indians sent him to Cincinnati to think about what he’d done. So he settled down and got the win over a very good Indians team. He’s faced the Twins once this year and was solid, going eight innings and giving up three runs. And honestly, it should have been just one run over seven innings. He was trotted back out for the eighth for reasons and gave up two home runs. He’s handled the Twins throughout his career, going 6-2 with a 2.64 ERA over 116 innings. This is a different type of Twins offense, but the history is at least good.

Sunday August 4th - 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 23 139.0 7 10 20.6% 6.5% 4.01 4.89 1.7
Jake Odorizzi 21 108.2 12 5 21.8% 8.2% 3.73 4.67 2.3

The series ends with former Royals pitcher Jake Odorizzi taking the hill. Prior to starting against the Royals on June 15th, Odorizzi was 9-2 with a 1.92 ERA in 13 starts with 78 strikeouts in 70.1 innings. The Twins were using him well, getting him out of games early and making sure he was effective all the way through. Since then, he’s 3-3 with a 7.04 ERA in eight starts with 35 strikeouts in 38.1 innings and has allowed 46 hits in that time. He’s only gotten more than 15 outs four times and never more than 18 in a start since then. It’s not that he’s been bad in all of them, but he’s been bad in a lot of them. He’s allowed 10 of his 14 home runs in those last eight starts, so things aren’t going great for Odorizzi. And the Royals have greatly contributed to his tough run. He allowed eight runs on 15 hits in 10 innings against the Royals in back to back starts against them in June. We didn’t know it at the time, but those starts were the beginning of the fall for him. Whit Merrifield has been especially problematic for him with eight hits in 16 at bats and three home runs, so watch out for that matchup.

Brad Keller takes the ball against Odorizzi. Like Duffy in his last start against the Twins, Keller gave up a run he shouldn’t have even been in the game to give up in his last start which sort of sullied his final line. He was still okay, but it could and should have been better. Even with the rough eighth inning, he ended July with a fantastic month. He had a 2.12 ERA in 34 innings with just eight walks and a strike percentage of near 70 percent, which is a huge improvement over earlier in the year. He did give up five home runs, but three of them were on Monday night, so that’s either a blip or the start of a trend. We just don’t know yet. He had a so-so start against the Twins early in the year, but was on the receiving end of Kyle Gibson’s great performance in Minnesota when he gave up nothing over seven innings. A repeat of that combined with Odorizzi’s struggles would likely get the Royals at least one win in this series.


The Royals aren’t playing well like they were right out of the break, going 1-6 on the recent homestand. But they have handled two of the three Twins starters just fine this season giving them hope. I still don’t think they win the series, but I think they do win one and if they can get a strong outing out of Sparkman, might pull out two of three, but there’s no way I’ll predict that with him against this Twins team.


How does this series turn out?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Royals Sweep
    (5 votes)
  • 33%
    Twins Sweep
    (23 votes)
  • 8%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (6 votes)
  • 50%
    Twins Win Two of Three
    (34 votes)
68 votes total Vote Now