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Minnesota Twins Series Preview: Boy are they happy to see the Royals

The division was once theirs to lose. They’ve lost it. Can games against the Royals help them get it back?

MLB: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, we know the Twins story pretty well. They disappointed everyone last year and finished 73-89, so they made some wholesale changes, spent some money and things looked like they were working for awhile. On May 24, they were 11 games over .500 and 5.5 games up in the division. As recently as July 5, they were 10 games over .500 and 4.5 games up in the division. Since then, they’re 22-33 and they’re now in third place and with time dwindling away to come back. They do face the Guardians five times in a series later this month and they have six more games against the White Sox, so they aren’t done yet, but the way they’re playing, it’s hard to imagine them making a run. Part of it is just injuries. Byron Buxton is out. Jorge Polanco has been out. Ryan Jeffers is hurt. Miguel Sano is hurt. Alex Kirilloff is hurt. Trevor Larnach is hurt. Chris Archer is hurt. Bailey Ober is hurt. Tyler Mahle is hurt. That’s a decent roster of players just on the IL, but that’s the reality of the game and they’re in a freefall because of that and probably a number of other reasons. They’re hopeful they can get right against the Royals as they have six of their final 23 against a team they’ve handled with no real issues this season. Between that and their 11 games against the two teams directly ahead of them, there’s reason to at least be optimistic that it’s possible for them to get back into it.

Royals vs. Twins Matchup Stats

Category Royals Twins
Category Royals Twins
Winning % .404 .496
H2H Wins 4 9
Team wRC+ 93 109
Team xFIP 4.47 4.11
Run Differential -157 13
Highest fWAR Brady Singer, 2.4 Byron Buxton, 4.0

Twins Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Luis Arrarez DH 534 .315 .376 .427 8.8% 7.7% 134 3.0
Carlos Correa SS 498 .278 .355 .453 10.6% 20.5% 133 3.5
Jose Miranda 1B 391 .275 .330 .447 5.6% 19.7% 124 1.7
Max Kepler RF 446 .227 .318 .348 11.0% 14.8% 95 2.0
Gio Urshela 3B 457 .267 .313 .414 6.8% 17.9% 107 0.9
Nick Gordon 2B 359 .281 .326 .432 4.7% 24.2% 117 1.6
Kyle Garlick LF 153 .241 .294 .454 5.2% 28.1% 113 0.3
Gary Sanchez C 394 .216 .284 .393 7.9% 28.9% 94 1.3
Jake Cave CF 92 .202 .261 .393 7.6% 26.1% 84 0.2

Twins Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Sandy Leon C 74 .167 .306 .217 16.2% 31.1% 63 -0.3
Caleb Hamilton C 8 .000 .000 .000 0.0% 75.0% -100 -0.1
Jermaine Palacios INF 36 .156 .200 .156 5.6% 30.6% 1 -0.4
Gilberto Celestino OF 278 .243 .312 .311 8.3% 23.0% 83 0.2
Billy Hamilton OF 17 .067 .125 .067 5.9% 47.1% -41 -0.1

Twins Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Jorge Lopez 59 62.2 4 7 24.8% 9.9% 2.30 3.57 1.0
Jhoan Duran 52 62.2 2 3 33.9% 5.8% 1.72 2.12 1.3
Michael Fulmer 59 56.0 5 5 23.7% 10.8% 3.21 4.31 0.8

Royals vs. Twins Projected Pitching Matchups

September 13 - LHP Kris Bubic vs. RHP Joe Ryan, 6:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 24 111.2 2 11 17.5% 10.7% 5.40 4.67 0.3
Joe Ryan 23 122.1 10 8 24.2% 7.6% 4.05 4.48 1.2

Kris Bubic has had two good Septembers in his big league career and then had his first actually good start in almost a month in his first start of the month of September in 2022. What about this month gets him so excited? I have no idea, but he’s good in September, which is a nice departure from some of his rotation mates. In his last start, I thought he looked as good as he was looking when he was in the midst of a good stretch following his recall. An inherited runner he left ended up scoring, which made his line a little bit worse. Still, since he’s been back in the big leagues, he has a 4.39 ERA in 98.1 innings in 18 starts. Yes he still walks too many and hasn’t struck out enough, but I think we’ve seen since the start of 2020 that he can at least be generally good enough for the back of a rotation. You’d like to see a step forward at some point, but someone who generally keeps the team in the game is at least useful, if not valuable.

Career vs. MIN: 8 G, 7 GS, 36.2 IP, 1-4, 4.91 ERA

I love symmetry. Whatever you think of ERA as a statistic and indicator of anything, Joe Ryan has a career 4.05 ERA. That’s a 4.05 ERA last year and a 4.05 ERA this year. This start will change that, so we have to appreciate things while we still can. You wouldn’t expect Ryan to be putting up the numbers he is now after watching him earlier this season, but he hasn’t been good since he came back off the IL. He’s still keeping his strikeouts up and his walks down, but he’s been more hittable and after allowing a .122 ISO in his first few starts, he’s allowing a .231 ISO in the last 15 starts. He’s just giving up too many extra base hits. If I had to guess, I’d have said it was his fastball that was getting hit given that he doesn’t have elite velocity and catches a lot of the plate with it, but that pitch has still been very effective because of its high spin. It’s everything else. His slider, changeup and curve have all been hit and hit hard. He has been consistently better at home this year, which is good for this start, but you wonder about that moving forward. Like so many Twins starters, he just doesn’t get deep enough into games to make a huge difference. He’s gone six or more innings in just four of the last 15 starts, so even if he’s good, the odds are he won’t be around for that long.

Career vs. KC: 3 GS, 17.0 IP, 3-0, 1.59 ERA

September 14 - RHP Zack Greinke vs. RHP Sonny Gray, 6:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Zack Greinke 22 114.2 4 8 13.4% 4.5% 4.00 4.48 1.3
Sonny Gray 22 110.2 7 4 23.9% 7.5% 3.09 3.74 2.2

You may not have noticed it because the season was on life support already, but since Zack Greinke came back from the IL the first time, he has a 3.14 ERA in 63 innings over 12 starts. No he isn’t going deep into games, but that’s surprisingly good. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the lack of strikeouts but even though he gives up some hits these days, he doesn’t walk anyone and the vast majority of the hits he allows are singles. Is it sustainable? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like it, but it works for now. He came off the IL in his last start and gave up just one run over six innings. But that was at home where he now has a 1.93 ERA in 11 starts. On the road, he has a 6.33 ERA in 11 starts. He’s given up 13 of his 14 home runs on the road. In fact, he’s given up 27 extra base hits on the road compared to an absurd 11 at home. That would all be some really fun information if this start wasn’t on the road. He’s gotten hit at Target Field too, so I guess we’ll see how this one goes.

Career vs. MIN: 28 G, 24 GS, 149.0 IP, 5-12, 4.59 ERA

I’m not sure what the thought on Sonny Gray is among Twins fans, but, from the outside looking in, he’s been a great addition for them. I know he’s missed some time with an injury, but it’s hard to argue with the kind of numbers he’s putting up. He’s given up more than two runs in a game just once since the break and that was against the Dodgers, who are just ridiculous. He throws a four-seamer, a two-seamer, a curve, slider and cutter. The two fastballs are about the same velocity but look different. The curve has long been his best pitch, but his slider is really good too. I don’t think I’m a huge fan of his cutter, but he’s had success with it. It just looks a little too much like the slider. I think I’d like it more if it was maybe two miles per hour harder to have some separation. His breaking balls have made him way better against lefties and he’s been slightly better at home this year, but, again, like so many Twins starters, you aren’t likely to see him after the sixth inning.

Career vs. KC: 9 GS, 58.0 IP, 6-2, 1.86 ERA

September 15 - LHP Daniel Lynch vs. RHP Dylan Bundy, 6:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Daniel Lynch 23 112.0 4 10 20.5% 9.0% 5.14 4.41 0.7
Dylan Bundy 25 123.0 8 7 16.3% 4.8% 4.68 4.61 0.9

I know I’ve brought this up before, but there was a stretch of outings that ended with his five shutout innings against the Dodgers where Daniel Lynch looked like a part of the future without a doubt. He was okay in his next start against these very Twins, but he’s struggled quite a bit since and has now allowed 31 hits in 18.2 innings with eight walks. You almost feel like his 8.35 ERA in that stretch could actually somehow be worse. Mike Matheny has mentioned a few times that Lynch looks like he’s tired (I loved the phrase when he said his jersey looks heavy), and that could very well be what it is, but I think the Royals need to push him to the finish line, even if it means three or four inning outings. The good news is that he since he came back from his blister issue, his walk rate is just 7.2 percent. You want more than the 18 percent strikeout rate, but you have to feel like his stuff will come around. And he did throw probably his best changeup of his career consistently in his last start. Maybe that’s the start of something.

Career vs. MIN: 5 GS, 26.0 IP, 1-2, 4.50 ERA

There have been times in Dylan Bundy’s career where it looked like he was going to live up to his draft spot of fourth overall in 2011. He had a great 2020 with the Angels and has had his moments throughout the years. He was solid for the Twins for a good two and a half months this season as well. From June 18 through September 4, he made 14 starts with a 3.36 ERA. How much was smoke and mirrors? Well he didn’t walk many, which is good. He also didn’t strike enough out, but he didn’t allow many baserunners and, like Greinke, limited extra base hits. He got rocked in his last start, so the question is if that’s the start of a downward spiral or if that was simply a blip. His fastball comes in at 88-90, his slider gets whiffs but has been hit hard at times and then he adds a changeup, curve and sinker. The changeup hasn’t been good and neither has the sinker. He’s another Twins starter who is better at home and doesn’t get deep enough into games.

Career vs. KC: 9 G, 8 GS, 46.1 IP, 2-2, 4.08 ERA

Royals vs. Twins Prediction

The way the Royals are both playing lately and have played against the Twins this season, I find it a little difficult to even predict a single win for them, but the Twins are also playing poorly, so I’ll give the Royals one in this series.


How many wins will the Royals get in Minnesota this week?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    (4 votes)
  • 15%
    (12 votes)
  • 50%
    (39 votes)
  • 28%
    (22 votes)
77 votes total Vote Now