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Game 52: Twins at Mariners

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First Pitch: 9:10 PM CDT
TV: Fox Sports North
Radio: Twins Radio Network
Know Thine Enemy: Lookout Landing


Tonight in Seattle, the Twins (31-20) square off against the Mariners (19-31) in a battle of two teams moving in opposite directions. Minnesota comes in on a five game winning streak after taking last night's series opener and sweeping the Texas Rangers. Seattle comes in on a three game losing streak, including two walk off home runs allowed in Anaheim.

On the good news front, Orlando Hudson is expected to arrive in Seattle sometime today, but it's not clear who will play second base tonight. The story of last night's game was the surprising decision to play Michael Cuddyer at second base, a position he has not played in a few years. Tonight against the left hander Jason Vargas, I expect Jim Thome will probably sit and either Matt Tolbert or Brendan Harris will start at third or second with Kubel likely at DH and Cuddyer returning to right.

Starting pitchers, lineups and more after the jump.


Nick Blackburn

#53 / Pitcher / Minnesota Twins

6-4

225

R

R

Feb 24, 1982



W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Nick Blackburn 6-1 9 9 1 0 0 0 61.0 73 30 29 8 13 17 4.28 1.41

Nick Blackburn comes in as hot a pitcher as we've seen him since joining the Twins in 2007. Blackburn had a stellar month of May, winning five of five starts pitching 37.1 innings (never fewer than 7) giving up 40 hits, 2 home runs, 5 walks / 10 strikeouts with a 2.65 ERA. And for the season, the Twins are 8-1 in his starts. But other than his ability to limit damage by inducing ground balls and avoid the base on balls, Blackburn's xFIP sits at 5.00, suggesting we could see a regression at some point. While Nick has managed to outperform his xFIP each year (4.05 ERA - 4.48 xFIP in 2008, 4.03 ERA - 4.56 xFIP in 2009), a half run jump in xFIP will probably be felt at some point. But for now, let's enjoy Blackburn's hot streak and hope it continues tonight against the Mariners. For his career, Blackburn is 1-0 in four starts against Seattle with a 2.88 ERA in 25.0 innings.


Jason Vargas

#38 / Pitcher / Seattle Mariners

6-0

215

L

L

Feb 02, 1983



W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Jason Vargas 3-2 9 9 0 0 0 0 57.2 44 21 20 5 17 38 3.12 1.06

Jason Vargas has been another pleasant surprise for the Mariners this season. With a 3.12 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, Vargas has gotten outs with consistency. But looking beyond ERA and WHIP suggests that Vargas may soon be in for a rude awakening. Vargas is a soft throwing (average fastball 86.7 MPH) left handed fly ball pitcher (49.4% fly balls, 0.77 GB/FB ratio) who doesn't strike out many batters (5.93 K/9). Two numbers tell me all I need to know about Vargas. First, his BABIP is an absurdly low .238, ninth lowest in MLB. While he has not been giving up solid contact (12.5% LD rate), I suspect his BABIP will increase as the season moves on. Second, his HR/FB is a low 5.7%. Yes, Vargas plays his home games in SAFECO Field, but last year he gave up over twice the number of fly balls. He is especially tough on left handers (374 OPS in 62 at bats), so expect Jim Thome or Jason Kubel to sit tonight. Vargas has never started against the Twins, but he has made one relief appearance pitching 1.1 scoreless innings giving up one hit at the Metrodome last year.

Lineups

Will be posted closer to game time.