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Series Preview: Twins will try to gain AL Central ground against Cleveland

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A strong showing in this series will position the Twins well, but a disappointment will be a huge blow to their playoff chances.

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals

The Minnesota Twins have only played the Cleveland in two games so far this season, which was the early-season “home” series in Puerto Rico — back when things were good and the Twins were a winning baseball team. Perhaps splitting those two games was an omen of things to come, as since then the Twins have been sub-par, especially where hitting the baseball is concerned.

Speaking of splitting those games, the first game in Puerto Rico ended in a 6-1 Twins loss. Jake Odorizzi gave up four runs over six innings, in one of his worse outings this season. The second game was the highly-emotional homecoming for Jose Berrios. Berrios out-battled Carlos Carrasco, and then that game remained scoreless into the 14th inning, and finally ended in the 16th inning in a 2-1 Twins win (thanks Ryan LaMarre).

Entering the current series, low scoring battles seem to have become the Twins’ forte, even if they tend to end on the wrong side of the ledger. They’ve only scored a single run in four of the seven games they have played on this road trip. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t win any of those games, and are sitting at five games behind Cleveland overall. This is a four-game affair at home, and the Twins will need some stellar performances from their pitching staff, as they face some very good Cleveland pitching. If the Twins are up to the task, however, they could possibly find themselves in first place by this time next week.

The first match up sends Jake Odorizzi back to the mound. He has been a pretty good roll lately — in his last four starts, he has given up only five runs in 22 innings. His season ERA stands at 3.34 and is only 2.63 in the month of May. Can he end the month on a high note? He has quite a few career appearances against Cleveland. Here is how they have hit him.

Someone named Shane Bieber is projected to take the mound for Cleveland. I’m not convinced this is a real person. He is a 23-year old right hander, and would be making his MLB debut. He started the season in Double-A and held a 1.16 ERA through five starts before moving up to Triple-A. He’s been even better against International League hitters, holding them to a 1.05 ERA over five more starts. As Twins fans know well, Triple-A success doesn’t always translate to the majors, especially right away, so hopefully the Twins can give him a rude welcome to the big leagues.

Game Two is set to be a re-match of the second game in Puerto Rico. Jose Berrios will pitch for the Twins. His season has been a bit up-and-down, and he has either been brilliant or brutal. His last few outings have been on the brilliant end of the spectrum, after reportedly tweaking his curveball a bit with pitching coach Garvin Alston. He’s pitched into the seventh inning in his last three starts, completing it once. He has only given up one or two runs in each of those games. If the bats show up, he should put the Twins in a good position. Here is how he has looked against Cleveland overall.

Carlos Carrasco is the other pitcher in this re-match. He is also the reason that saying “if the bats show up” is a pretty big if. He is just one of several pitchers for Cleveland who would be considered the ace of many MLB staffs. Here is how he has pitched against the Twins.

For game three, the vastly improved Lance Lynn will face a tougher test. Lynn had a rough start to the season, but held Detroit scoreless over six innings, and then limited Kansas City to two runs over six-and-two-thirds in his most recent outing. Cleveland is a significantly better team than those two divisional foes, but hopefully Lynn can keep his performance going. His season ERA has fallen to 5.94, and will ideally keep trending in the right direction. He hasn’t faced Cleveland much, but here are the results.

Countering Lynn is the enigmatic Trevor Bauer. Bauer has been in the headlines this season for donating money because he got paid more than he wanted in arbitration, and for accusing the Houston Astros of doing something untoward to increase pitcher spin rates. More relevantly, he has been pitching very well this season, with a 2.61 ERA. He’s always been a thorn in the Twins’ side. Here are the stats.

The final game of the series is started by Kyle Gibson on the Twins side. Gibson’s been making waves recently for his improved overall performance and filthy slider. He’s notched a 3.57 ERA this season, and has been among the Twins’ most consistent pitchers. He also hasn’t been able to get much run support, or help from the bullpen. He somehow only has earned one win this season, despite deserving better. Being a Twin for awhile, he has seen a lot of Cleveland, and here are the numbers.

The opponent for this game is Mike Clevinger. Clevinger has been very good for Cleveland this season, and owns a 3.14 ERA. He also looks like he came from Wayne’s World, for what that’s worth. The Twins have not seen much of him, but here is the damage.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Thursday, May 31; 7:10 pm CT — Jake Odorizzi RHP vs Shane Bieber RHP

Game 2: Friday, June 1; 7:10 pm CT — Jose Berrios RHP vs Carlos Carrasco RHP

Game 3: Saturday, June 2; 3:10 pm CT — Lance Lynn RHP vs Trevor Bauer RHP

Game 4: Sunday, June 3; 1:10 pm CT — Kyle Gibson RHP vs. Mike Clevinger RHP

Notes

  • The game on Saturday will be nationally broadcast by Fox Sports 1
  • Joe Mauer is reportedly on track to return during this series. Hopefully he can be the jolt the offense needs.

Poll

How many games do the Twins win against Cleveland?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    4
    (12 votes)
  • 11%
    3
    (14 votes)
  • 35%
    2
    (44 votes)
  • 25%
    1
    (31 votes)
  • 17%
    0
    (22 votes)
123 votes total Vote Now