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Series Preview: Twins headed into inter-league versus San Francisco Giants

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The ball-throwers are bat-swingers too this time.

Minnesota Twins v San Francisco Giants
Sadly, this picture does not end well
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

The Minnesota Twins continue their west coast road trip this weekend with an interleague series against the San Francisco Giants. It’s the first time the Twins are playing in a National League park this season, meaning there’s no DH. That tends to change bullpen and bench use strategies, and it will be interesting to see how Twins Manager Paul Molitor handles his roster.

Trivia Question: Who managed for the most years in the MLB without being elected to the Hall of Fame? (Answer at the bottom of the article)

The last time these two clubs faced each other was 2014. The Twins were swept in that series, by a Giants club that would go on to defeat the Kansas City Royals in a seven-game World Series. The Twins starters for that tilt were Ricky Nolasco, Samuel Deduno, and Kyle Gibson. 2014 brought us some dark days of effectively wild pitching to contact.

The last time the Twins defeated the Giants was in 2011. Carl Pavano and his mustache earned the win, while Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing lost the next two games. One of those guys is still playing professional baseball at least; and that’s about the best I can say about that group.

The Giants currently have the all-time series lead at 8-4. While the Twins won’t be able to bring it back to parity this go-around, they have an excellent chance to close the gap. The only series the Twins have ever won against the Giants was the first time they played, in 2003. Current Bullpen Coach “Everyday” Eddie Guardado picked up two saves, and I feel really old thinking about it.

Just because these two teams haven’t played often doesn’t mean there’s no interesting history between them, going back to the days of the New York Giants and Washington Senators. The two have been trade partners in several deals that have had an important impact on Twins history. The most notable were probably a pact in 1987 that brought “Dazzling” Danny Gladden to town, of which TIBN listeners are still reaping the benefit; and the 2003 deal which sent A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco, to clear a spot for a young catcher named Joe Mauer, and saw pitchers Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Nathan come to Minnesota.

The list of players who have served both teams is a long one, but some other notable names are LaTroy Hawkins, Terry Mulholland, Livan Hernandez, Ron Davis, and Chili Davis. In addition to the names mentioned above, there are a few old friends we’ll see in this series.

Several Twins pitchers could potentially notch their first big-league plate appearance in this series, if Molitor wants to save his bench. Matt Belisle, as a long-time NL pitcher, is the only reliever with a statistically significant amount of plate appearances, and he has done his best to make Byron Buxton look like David Ortiz. In his only professional at-bat, Berrios singled. Santana, thanks to a year spent with the Atlanta Braves, has 105 career plate appearances, and has a very ugly batting line of .118/.137/.140. Due to the fact these teams have not played since 2014, they are not nearly as familiar with each other as most opponents. While the Twins are currently carrying a 3-man bench, don’t be surprised to see a roster move for this series.

The Giants are one of the worst-hitting teams in either league this year, with a current combined stat line of .231/.293/.349. They have actually hit 70 home runs, which is six more than the Twins, but they have also played five more games. They have a notable lack of singles and doubles, which drives their statistics down.

Opposing batters have hit .263/.322/.421 against the San Francisco pitching staff this year. Their hurlers have done an excellent job of limiting the long-ball, though, as no team in baseball has given up fewer home runs. They also have given up very few walks, while collecting a middle-of-the-pack number of strikeouts. The Giants are not an easy team to steal bases against either, and the positions players have an efficient .986 fielding percentage.

The Twins have one off day between now and the All-Star break. Since there are two double-headers scheduled in that span, that means more games than there are days. The Twins lost the series to the Mariners, primarily due to their bullpen, so hopefully things pick up in that regard. The Giants are coming off a four game visit to the Milwaukee Brewers, who I will never forgive for giving us Bud Selig. The Brewers and Giants split the series, with San Francisco winning the finale during a comedy of errors in the 10th inning. The Giants haven’t been competitive in the NL West this year, and are in 4th place with a record of 25-37. The Twins, of course, are currently in sole possession of a hotly-contested AL Central lead.

MUSIC!

The Giants got to see (mildly NSFW language in link) “The Streak” in their most recent game, so lets bring out this classic! I’m guessing somebody had a few too many “rally beverages” by the second inning.

Probable Starters

Game 1 Friday, 6/9/17 9:15 PM CT — Ervin Santana (7-3) RHP vs. Matt Moore (2-6) LHP

Game 2 Saturday, 6/10/17 3:05 PM CT — Jose Berrios (4-1) RHP vs Jeff Samardzija (2-7) RHP

Game 3 Sunday, 6/11/17 3:05 CT — TBD vs Matt Cain (3-4) RHP

EDIT: Thanks to Bryz, we now know that LHP Nik Turley will make his MLB debut as the game 3 starter

Notes

  • Hector Santiago was moved to the disabled list with a shoulder strain following his short start in Seattle, so the Twins will have someone else starting for game 3 instead. They have not yet announced who, as of the time of writing. Justin Case Haley (his parents must have a sense of humor) and Phil Hughes are both eligible to return when healthy, although Hughes sounds to be a bit farther away than Haley.
  • Jorge Polanco is on bereavement leave, and while eligible to return during this series, he could miss the rest the road trip.
  • Giants Infielder Conor Gillaspie is on the DL for back spasms, and has no timetable to return. San Francisco slugger pitcher Madison Bumgarner will not return until July due to a grade 2 shoulder sprain.
  • Old Friend Update! Eduardo Nunez has served as the Giants starting third baseman for most of 2017. He is still apparently up to his old helmet-losing tricks, thank goodness. He is currently on a hot streak he attributes to a change in his batting stance. He has a triple slash of .297/.322/.411. Denard Span is hitting .267/.314/.411 in 37 games. The Giants also hold the contract of Josmil Pinto, but he is on their AAA restricted list, and therefore not playing.
  • Santana has given up a lot of contact to Giant’s hitters in his career, to the tune of .313/.341/.475, with Denard Span doing most of the damage. Span is hitting .389/.395/.583 with 4 doubles, a homerun, and 7 RBI’s against Santana. Hunter Pence and Eduardo Nunez have also hit well. Moore has given up a line of .308/.441/.500 to the Twins in his career. Robbie Grossman is 2-for-3, and Brian Dozier has hit a home run off the Giants hurler.
  • Berrios has never faced a Giants hitter. Samardzija has frustrated the Twins batters; they have struck out 28 times against him in 99 at-bats, with only 26 hits. Eduardo Escobar, the outlier, has hit .364/.462/.455 in 11 appearances. This has the potential to be an interesting pitcher’s duel.
  • Jason Castro is the only Twin to have seen Cain. The Twins’ catcher is 2-for-5 with a home run.
  • Ehire Adrianza was claimed off of waivers from the Giants prior to spring training. He played in 156 games across four seasons with his previous club, and was a perfect example of a replacement level player, earning a total of exactly 0.0 bWAR.
  • As Myjah noted in her post about him, new-ish Twin Charlton Chris Heston threw a no-hitter for the Giants back in 2015, and had an overall record of 13-12 in 3 seasons as a starter and reliever with them.
  • Despite many rumors that the Twins were attempting to acquire reliever Sam Dyson from the Rangers, it was the Giants who ended up trading for the recently DFA’d pitcher.
  • Expect to see some pooches in attendance for Sunday’s game. The Giants have one of my personal favorite baseball promotions going on — The Dog Days of Summer
  • AT&T has the naming rights to the Giant’s home stadium. They also own the naming rights to the Chattanooga Lookout’s home field, so some of the younger Twins may feel right at home.
  • Happy Birthday to former Twins Roy Smalley (6/9) and Scott Ulger (6/10)

Trivia Answer: Gene Mauch. The former Phillies, Expos, Twins and Angels manager was on a major league bench for a total of 26 years. He managed the Twins for about 4 12 seasons, between 1976 and 1980, and produced a record of 378-394 with the Minnesota ball club.

Poll

How many games do the Twins win against the Giants?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    3
    (38 votes)
  • 65%
    2
    (95 votes)
  • 4%
    1
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (5 votes)
145 votes total Vote Now