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Series Preview: Twins Versus Royals

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Finally the Twins get someone worse off than they are.  Tonight, Minnesota begins a three-game set against the perennially nose-diving Kansas City Royals, and thereby begins a chance at improving on their 7-11 start.  Coming into the series, the Royals are 4-13.

Pitching Matchups:

                    W  L    ERA   IP    K  BB   H              W   L    ERA   IP   K  BB  H
Monday:     Lohse   1  1  11.57  14.0   6   6  23   Elarton    0   4   4.07  24.1  9  16 20
Tuesday:    Baker   1  1   3.31  16.1  10   4  18   Hernandez  0   0   0.00   0.0  0   0  0
Wednesday:  Santana 0  3   4.81  24.1  18   9  27   Redman     0   0   4.91  11.0  8   5 12

This series, and I'm sure the Royals are looking at us in the same light, is a chance for not only the offense to pick up some decent nights, but is also a chance for the pitching to find it's footing.  It's been said everywhere you turn, but pitching was the one place you thought we'd have the least worries.  As of right now, the Twins are barely better than the Royals in the pitching department...and that's not saying much.

       Twins       Royals
ERA   6.10 (12)   6.19 (14)
OPS   .876 (14)   .855 (12)
WHIP  1.58 (11)   1.70 (14)

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the numbers for the Twins are a bit more misleading than the numbers for the Royals.  I'm also going to say it's early, and things will come around.  But the bottom line is that the AL Central is a heading up some stiff competition this season, and to stick around for the weary games of July and August there needs to be some success in April.  We haven't hit the ground running, but the sooner we pull ourselves out of the infield dirt the happier I'll be.

Lohse

I don't care if it's only 3 starts, Kyle is averaging less than 5 innings per go.  Tonight, against what you'll see to be a statistically irrelevant offense, Lohse needs to log a solid game.  Many team bloggers of other sites have written off Lohse as a run-of-the-mill, barely-bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher, and if you've looked at Lohse's statistical history there's no real reason to disagree.  Prior to the season I came to the conclusion that, for where he pitched, he really wasn't as bad as advertised.  I eagerly await Kyle to prove me right.

Elarton

Winless in four starts in 2006, Scott Elarton is Kyle Lohse in four years if things don't change.  He's been around the league and has shown enough people just enough that he's made some sort of a name for himself.  Whether or not it's for his misleading 17-7 record in 2000 with Houston is beyond me, but whatever it's for it's earned him $4,000,000 to play with the Royals in 2006.  For a guy with a career 5.07 ERA, I have no idea how he's a .500 pitcher.

Against the Twins he doesn't have much to go on.  Rondell White has put up mega-numbers in a team leading 28 at-bats versus Elarton.  Elarton, on the other hand, owns Castro (.476 OPS, 21 AB's), Ford (.529 OPS 17 AB's), Stewart (.388 OPS, 15 AB's) and Cuddyer (.538 OPS, 13 AB's).

Offensive Matchups:

Looking at the poll to the right, it looks like most of us think the Twins are at least doing as well at the plate as we thought they would, if not a little better.  A couple days ago ubelmann posted a great article examining offensive performance against expectations, coming to the conclusion that yes, we're doing about as well as we could realistically hope.  Kansas City, on the other hand, is miserable with few exceptions.

             AB  Avg   Obp   HR  2B                   AB   Avg   Obp   HR   2B
C   Mauer    57 .316  .403    1   3     Buck          36  .250  .317    0    5
1B  Morneau  65 .215  .271    4   1     Mientkiewicz  53  .264  .310    0    4
2B  Punto    22 .273  .333    0   1     Grudzielanek  64  .297  .324    0    5
3B  Batista  61 .279  .353    2   5     Teahen        47  .213  .255    1    1
SS  Castro   50 .280  .308    0   1     Berroa        60  .317  .328    0    4
OF  Ford     36 .250  .341    1   1     Brown         57  .193  .279    1    4
OF  Hunter   70 .229  .280    5   2     Costa         49  .286  .294    3    2
OF  Cuddyer  27 .185  .267    2   1     Sanders       54  .278  .298    3    3
DH  White    67 .149  .157    0   1     Sweeney       52  .173  .279    1    3
Team        617 .267  .327   18  24                  555  .247  .297   10   35

While for Twins fans these numbers look a little bleak, especially for guys like Hunter, Morneau and new man Rondell White, things look worse on the other side of the ball.  We're missing Shannon Stewart (.377 OBP) and Luis Castillo (.481 OBP); they're missing David DeJesus (.231 OBP).

Coming off the bench for the Royals, Tony Graffanino and Matt Stairs have been ineffective at best, going a combined 5 for 31 with 4 walks.  For the Twins on a short bench, Mike Redmond has been solid when given the opportunity, and Luis Rodriguez is once again jumping all over right-handed pitching (.400 AVG, .438 OBP).

Key Matchup:


Scott Elarton VS Rondell White

AB  Hits  2B  HR  RBI  SO  BB   BA   OBP   SLG   OPS
28   13    3   1   5    3  3  .464  .516  .679  1.195

White has technically been in a slump, but he's had some good at-bats over the last week according to manager Ron Gardenhire, and has been looking better since his first week jitters.  History against Royal starting pitcher Scott Elarton forshadows a partly cloudy evening with a 46% chance of hits.  If White can have a break-out game, or even a break-out series, the Minnesota offense will be in business.

Notes

The game kicks off momentarily.  As you watch the game, leave your comments here.  Thanks to mbennett, cmathewson and ubelmann for all their work whilst I was out of the country.  It's good to be back, it's good to be back...