The Royals have nine games left and seven of them are with the Minnesota Twins. They’ll knock four of them out this weekend. The Twins still do have something to play for with a magic number of six, but their fate is pretty well determined at this point. They’ll win their 95 or so games and have the third best record in the American League and take on either the Yankees or Astros. Both will be pretty heavily favored against the Twins, but the ability to hit the ball out of the park will give them a chance against anyone. They’re not to 300 home runs just yet, but it’s only a matter of time as they’re within a handful with these 12 games to go.
Where they struggle is in the rotation, especially now that Michael Pineda is done for the year due to his suspension, so they’ll have to piece it together behind a resurgent Jose Berrios and a solid Jake Odorizzi. At least they have their bullpen figured out decently with some solid arms at just about every level of the game once the starter departs.
Meet the Twins
Royals vs. Twins Tale of the Tape
|Highest fWAR||Hunter Dozier, 3.1||Max Kepler, 4.4|
Twins Projected Lineup
Twins Projected Bench
|LaMonte Wade, Jr.||OF||41||.161||.366||.290||19.5%||7.3%||91||-0.1|
Twins Key Relievers
Probable Pitching Matchups
Thursday September 19th - 6:40pm
Noted Royals killer and soon-to-be free agent Kyle Gibson takes the hill to start the series for the Twins. It hasn’t been an especially great year for Gibson after a fantastic season in 2018, but he’s given the Twins some innings at the very least. His last outing was out of the bullpen for the Twins as they needed some help, even with expanded rosters, to get through a full game after using a lot of relievers in their series with the Indians. And it didn’t go well. He made one start after coming off the IL for ulcerative colitis. It also didn’t go well. With the postseason basically a certainty for the Twins, they’re trying to figure out who will start that third game, so Gibson will keep getting opportunities to prove it’s him. While he’s striking out more than ever this season, he’s struggling in key situations. He’s allowed a .321/.396/.522 line with runners in scoring position and a .303/.371/.457 line with runners on in general. That’s been a big reason that his ERA and xFIP have such a big gap. Getting on base isn’t the easiest thing against him, but once you do, it definitely gets easier.
It was a weird start for Mike Montgomery against the Astros his last time out. The results ended up just fine with two runs allowed over five innings, but he was in trouble all game. He gave up five hits and walked five while striking out just one. And now over his last two starts, he’s struck out just three batters in nine innings. That’s not great. And he was helped immensely by Tim Hill in that last start. Montgomery started the sixth inning by giving up a walk and two singles to score a run and then the Royals committed an error to load the bases with nobody out. Hill came on and stranded all three. The Astros ended up tacking on later, but Hill saved Montgomery’s ERA and the Royals chance to come back in that moment.
Friday September 20th - 7:10pm
Randy Dobnak is one of those stories you root for in baseball. He was undrafted and signed with the Twins just two years ago, likely as organizational depth. He was solid in Rookie ball, then got the bump to A-ball and was solid there in 2018. He made four starts in high-A and allowed one run in 22.1 innings, so he went to AA where he posted a 2.57 ERA in 66.2 innings. Then he moved up to AAA where he posted a 2.15 ERA in 46 innings. And now he’s in the big leagues. The ERA is shiny, but he’s allowed 23 hits in those 17 innings and three unearned runs, so there’s likely to be some regression quickly. In his short big league career, he’s gone with his sinker about 36 percent of the time and his four-seamer about 28 percent of the time and he throws hard enough that if he commands the ball, he should be fine. His curve has actually been both a great weapon and a huge hindrance for him, generating a whiff rate of 43 percent, but also getting hit pretty hard, to the tune of a .600 SLG. The sample is too small to make any real judgments, but that’s going to be a pitch for Royals hitters to watch for. Between the big leagues and the minors, he’s been better against lefties actually, holding them to a .202/.259/.286 line. That’s held true in the big leagues, but in just 37 plate appearances, righties have crushed him to the tune of a .424/.486/.545 line, so maybe the Royals and their righty power can do some damage in this one.
Eric Skoglund is the guy the Royals have tabbed to take the last couple starts of the season in place of Jakob Junis. Skoglund has allowed 17 home runs in 102 career innings. Need I remind you what the Twins do best offensively? The Twins have hit .287/.358/.527 against lefty starters this season and that includes games against actually good lefties. I feel like people want a reason to believe in these previews, and the reason to believe in this one is that baseball is a funny game and weird things happen, so it’s possible the Twins don’t absolutely destroy about seven baseballs in this game.
Saturday September 21st - 6:10pm
The Royals will get the Twins best in Jose Berrios. He had a very rough stretch in the middle of the season, going 1-3 with an 8.07 ERA in six starts from August 6th through September 4th. He’s only made two starts since then, but he’s 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 14.1 innings with 12 strikeouts and just three walks. His velocity is bouncing back after falling to around 92 for a couple starts at the end of his brutal run. That’s not great news for the Royals, but it’s amazing news for the Twins if he can be the ace of that staff come time for the playoffs. On the whole this season, there are two times to get Berrios. You can jump him early when he’s allowed a .459 SLG in his first 25 pitches. Or you can wait him out. After he’s thrown 75 pitches, he’s allowed a line of .300/.361/.476. In between, he’s big trouble. He’s pitched well against the Royals this year with just five runs allowed in 14 innings, but he’s also struck out only seven, so the Royals seem to see the ball well enough to avoid that fate. Maybe they can hit him in this one and give the Twins some trouble.
Glenn Sparkman is decidedly not the Royals best. Things have been so bad for him that his last two starts have been considered better by some. He’s given up seven runs in 9.1 innings, so I guess it is better, but yikes. He’s allowed at least one home run in six straight games and since moving to the rotation, he’s given up 27 in 102.1 innings. He has a 6.77 ERA in that time. Since he threw that fantastic shutout against the White Sox, he’s 1-6 with an 8.05 ERA in 11 starts. Again, if you’ve come here for hope, well, sorry.
Sunday September 22nd - 1:10pm
Martin Perez had such a promising start to the season for the Twins. His velocity was up and he was up and he was striking hitters out. Through his first 10 appearances, he struck out 53 in 53 innings and carried a 2.89 ERA. Since then, he’s basically been the old Perez. He’s 4-6 with a 5.95 ERA and he’s struck out 76 in 104.1 innings with 42 walks. In short, it’s not great. He still gets a nice chunk of ground balls, so he can be effective, but he’s a different guy than what we saw in the first six or eight weeks of the season. And that’s really too bad for the Twins because they could use the guy who showed up in April during the playoffs. He’s put upa 7.02 ERA in 16.2 innings against the Royals with 18 hits allowed, four home runs and he’s struck out 12. So the Royals have hit him well enough. It’s just not a great matchup for him. I’d expect the Royals to run on him too if they get the chance. Base stealers are 11 for 13 against him this season, so this is an opportunity for the Royals to maybe steal a win.
Jorge Lopez is coming off three straight very good starts. Yes, one was against the Marlins and yes, he’s struggled to get swings and misses, but they’ve been good. Even with the home run ball biting him in the middle innings of his last time out, he’s now posted a 2.08 ERA in September with just three walks allowed and the one home run. And that’s been the biggest difference for him. The walks being down is huge for him and gives him an opportunity to actually compete. And don’t forget that this is the sight of his near perfect game last season, so maybe there’s something about the Minneapolis mound that he likes. Of course, he has a 4.76 ERA there this year. So maybe there’s something about the Minneapolis mound in September that he likes.
There’s been a lot of talk about if the Royals can avoid 100 losses. This is the series that shows they can’t because I think the Twins take three of four and hand the Royals their 100th loss. I think they’ll improve on 104 from last season because the last two series will be essentially meaningless for their opponents, but this series isn’t and the Twins will do the damage they need to do.
Do the Royals avoid 100 losses this weekend?
This poll is closed
By a longshot. They’ll sweep the Twins.
Nope, they’ll blow past it to 101 after the Twins sweep.
For now. They’ll take three of four.
Negative, ghost rider. Twins take three of four.
Barely. They’ll split this series and come home with 99 losses.