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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: These guys again?

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The Twins were hot when the Royals got to Minnesota. They are no longer hot.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

On one hand, when teams play on consecutive weekends, it sort of takes the pressure off the series preview because how much can really have changed? On the other hand, the Twins did lose Mitch Garver to an injury that I implore you not to search out to watch because it will make your stomach turn over if you have any sort of empathy. Or eyes. After spending last weekend walking the entire lineup and somehow getting out of almost every jam with minimal damage done, the Royals will welcome the Minnesota Twins to Kansas City for the first time this season after six games in Minnesota over two trips to start the year.

The Royals catch a break with Byron Buxton still on the injured list and now Max Kepler and Garver are as well, so this is definitely not a team at full strength or clicking. As we saw last weekend, both Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz are on the field, but neither is playing at 100 percent, so the Twins are hobbled. In a four-game set, you really get exposed to the entire staff, and the only starter the Royals won’t see is one they ultimately ended up hitting around last weekend, Randy Dobnak. They will see both Michael Pineda and Jose Berrios, who they missed last weekend. We did not get to see Willians Astudillo at all last weekend, but the Royals hope they see him on a mound because he’s sort of been their designated blowout pitcher, so it would mean things are going well if he’s out there.

Royals vs. Twins Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .509 .400
Team wRC+ 92 105
Team xFIP 4.27 4.27
Run Differential -14 -27
H2H Wins 3 3
Highest fWAR Danny Duffy, 1.6 Byron Buxton, 2.6

Twins Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Jorge Polanco 2B 205 .227 .302 .387 9.3% 18.0% 93 0.7
Josh Donaldson 3B 177 .238 .345 .408 14.1% 15.3% 112 1.0
Alex Kirilloff RF 97 .242 .278 .440 5.2% 27.8% 97 0.3
Nelson Cruz DH 194 .274 .349 .500 9.3% 20.6% 133 0.9
Miguel Sano 1B 155 .157 .271 .381 12.9% 38.7% 84 -0.1
Trevor Larnach LF 78 .238 .385 .460 15.4% 28.2% 141 0.6
Andrelton Simmons SS 158 .248 .329 .326 10.1% 19.0% 90 0.3
Ryan Jeffers C 41 .184 .244 .342 7.3% 46.3% 62 0.0
Gilberto Celestino CF 2 .000 .000 .000 0.0% 50.0% -100 0.0

Twins Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Ben Rortvedt C 33 .167 .242 .267 6.1% 39.4% 46 0.1
Willians Astudillo UTIL 104 .277 .288 .436 0.0% 7.7% 99 0.1
Nick Gordon INF 9 .250 .333 .250 11.1% 22.2% 73 0.0
Kyle Garlick OF 88 .253 .284 .494 3.4% 30.7% 112 0.4

Twins Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Hansel Robles 24 23.2 1 1 25.0% 15.0% 3.42 4.72 0.2
Taylor Rogers 20 22.1 2 2 34.1% 4.4% 2.82 2.13 0.5
Alex Colome 22 20.1 2 4 22.1% 11.6% 5.31 4.91 -0.6

Probable Starting Pitchers

June 3 - J.A. Happ vs. Kris Bubic, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
J.A. Happ 9 46.1 3 2 17.2% 8.2% 5.24 5.22 0.5
Kris Bubic 7 29.2 1 0 19.0% 12.1% 1.52 4.69 0.4

J.A. Happ pitched in the Twins win last weekend and he was good, but not great, going five innings and giving up two runs but throwing 91 pitches. It was a pretty rare game where the Royals really worked their opponent, which was nice to see. To refresh your memory, Happ uses his fastball a lot and it sits around 90, which is down from previous seasons. It was really effective against the Royals last weekend and he threw it about two-thirds of the time. He got all five of his strikeouts on it and allowed just two singles. He got in trouble on his curve, which he only threw six times, so I wonder if he just stays away from that entirely in this game.

Kris Bubic continued his fantastic run as a starter, going six innings and giving up just one run on a home run to Garver, who will not be playing in this series as I mentioned above. It was his first game of the season with double digit swings and misses. His changeup was nasty last week, but he also was getting a ton of swings and misses on his fastball. It’s always tough for a pitcher to face a team twice in a row, especially a young pitcher against a team that can hit, but the Twins are a little bit beat up, as I’ve also mentioned, so that certainly helps Bubic in this instance.

June 4 - Matt Shoemaker vs. Brad Keller, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Matt Shoemaker 10 50.1 2 6 14.7% 8.5% 5.90 5.06 -0.2
Brad Keller 11 50.2 5 4 19.2% 10.4% 5.68 4.33 0.1

Things were looking good for Matt Shoemaker to start the game against the Royals last Sunday. He gave up a first inning run, but then really settled down, getting the Royals 1-2-3 in the second, third and fourth. And then the fifth inning started and it was like his first start. He just couldn’t get an out. It was two singles and then great hustle from Hunter Dozier to beat out a double play and after a few more batters, it was 5-2 Royals and they never looked back. His splitter is a good pitch, but the Royals eventually figured it out and did well against his sinker as well. This’ll be the third time he’s pitched against the Royals this season, and the smart money is it will go similarly given that offenses tend to figure out pitchers, not the other way around.

Brad Keller has continued to rebound well enough from his terrible start to the season, and what’s really interesting is that he’s started to incorporate strikeouts into his game. In his last seven starts, he’s 4-2 with a 3.72 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 38.2 innings, which is pretty impressive for him. He’s walked four in each of his last two starts, and that’s a concern, but I’ve loved what I’ve seen from his slider. If he can keep getting the punchouts, I feel like he’ll continue on the right track in getting this whole season turned around for him.

June 5 - Jose Berrios vs. Mike Minor, 3:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jose Berrios 11 64.1 5 2 26.7% 6.6% 3.36 3.33 1.3
Mike Minor 11 60.0 4 2 27.0% 8.7% 4.64 3.90 1.0

The Royals didn’t face Berrios last weekend, but they did face him in their first trip to Minnesota and he was good, but not great. He gave up four runs on six hits, which is pretty meh for six innings. But he did strike out nine and walk one. This is the first year I think I didn’t predict Berrios to finish in the top three of the Cy Young, so I figured he’d truly break out, but he hasn’t quite gotten there, though he is having his best season so far. He’s really cut down on his walks from last year and his strikeouts have remained high. That’s always a good combination. He’s embraced his incredible curve more than ever this season, throwing it more than one-third of the time and more than any of his other pitches. The increase has come at the expense of a changeup that I’ve always liked, but the curve is definitely a better pitch for him. Oh yeah, and he’s maintained the slightly increased velocity from last year on his fastball, so he’s dangerous. Where he’s struggled is with lefty bats, so the Royals will need to rely on guys like Andrew Benintendi, Carlos Santana and, hopefully, Adalberto Mondesi.

Mike Minor continues to rebound, similar to Keller, only better. After going six innings and giving up two runs, he’s now gone 24 innings in his last four starts with a 3.00 ERA. The most impressive part about this is that he’s struck out 31 in that time with just seven walks. His fastball has really come alive lately, which has been the missing piece for him, but his changeup and his curve have been really good this year. He hasn’t faced the Twins yet this season, but given the success Bubic had, I think it’s fair to think that Minor has a chance to have a really good start if he follows that gameplan.

June 6 - Michael Pineda vs. Brady Singer, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Michael Pineda 9 47.2 3 3 25.0% 6.3% 3.40 3.94 0.4
Brady Singer 11 53.1 3 4 22.9% 8.3% 5.07 4.18 1.0

It feels like Pineda has been around forever, and while he did debut all the way back in 2011, it just seems even longer than that. The huge righty has seen his velocity fall off a cliff this season. He was averaging 94.7 MPH as recently as 2016 and 92.1 MPH as recently as last season. But this year, he’s averaging just 90.9 MPH. And because of that, it’s getting hit with a .260 average and .542 SLG allowed and the numbers to indicate it probably should have been worse. His slider is still unreal and his changeup is still good enough, but without the fastball, he finds himself in trouble more often than he would like and sometimes unable to get to the slider in the count. He did pitch five solid innings against the Royals back in April, but he’s dealt with an injury since then and struck out just one of 16 batters in his last start in which he could only go three innings.

Brady Singer is coming off a second straight rough start. In this one, he was able to get the win because the offense came alive, but I think it’s fair to question if his emotions got the better of him again. Whether they did or not, we can all agree he could stand to work on throwing to the bases as he had two throwing errors against the Pirates. The big thing that was encouraging in that start, though, was the six strikeouts and just one walk. He’d been having some issues with command, and I didn’t see as much of that in the start against the Pirates, so that’s encouraging. He faced off with Pineda in April in the game where he had absolutely zero command and ultimately left the game after a line drive hit off his foot. He has a 6.60 ERA since that start, so it would be nice if he could start the turnaround from that down stretch.

Prediction

The Twins just lost two of three to the Orioles after losing two of three to the Royals and they’re really fighting injuries. The Royals offense is a crapshoot from game to game and the starting pitching kind of is too, but I think the Royals take three of four in this series.

Poll

Do the Royals keep the Twins reeling?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    They do and they do it with a sweep.
    (30 votes)
  • 58%
    They’ll take three of four and bury them more.
    (96 votes)
  • 20%
    Kinda sorta, they’ll split.
    (33 votes)
  • 3%
    The Twins get back on track by winning three of four.
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    They completely turn it around with a sweep of the Royals.
    (0 votes)
164 votes total Vote Now