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This week in preview: Twins look to clinch AL Central during last homestand

The boys are back in town one last time this regular season.

Look at La Tortuga. He’s just so happy.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

After a series loss to the Washington Nationals, the Minnesota Twins went to Cleveland and took the series with the Spiders in one day of huge heartbreak. (For Cleveland fans, that is.) A loss yesterday brings the magic number to nine for the Twins to clinch the American League Central crown for the first time since 2010. I was in college back then. Wow.

The Bomba Squad comes home one last time this regular season and will face two Central foes. In fact, the remaining schedule is all with rivals from the Central. The Chicago White Sox will come to town for a three-game set followed by a four-game series with the Kansas City Royals.

vs White Sox

Minnesota and Chicago meet for one last dance tonight through Wednesday. The last time these two teams met was in Chicago at the end of August when the Twins came through and swept the Pale Hose to begin a road trip. That was the beginning of a seven-game losing streak for Rick Renteria and his squad, who have gone only 5-11 since the Twins left town.

After seeing the likes of Cleveland, the Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City Royals, and the Atlanta Braves the past two-plus weeks, White Sox hitters have fared pretty okay, batting .271/.343/.462 with 18 homers and 67 RBI. Three players have been on fire, though: Tim Anderson is hitting .389/.411/.611 with two homers and six RBI the last couple weeks, Yoan Moncada is hitting .420/.483/.640 with a homer and eight RBI, while Eloy Jimenez is hitting .302/.362/.660 with five homers and 14 RBI.

On the other hand, Pale Hose pitching has not been faring well. The last two weeks, they’ve posted a 5.42 ERA, allowing 24 homers and a WHIP of 1.413. The Twins will see Reynaldo Lopez tonight, who they lit up when they last saw him on August 20: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 7 R (3 ER), 3 K, 2 HR. Since that time, he’s posted a 6.05 ERA in four starts and allowing four homers in 19.1 innings pitched. Lucas Giolito will go on Tuesday and he’s started three times since last seeing Minnesota, allowing 11 earned runs in 19.0 innings of work. He struck out 12 Royals batters during a 6-3 loss in his last start. Dylan Covey is the final White Sox starter the Twins will see this year. I’m not sure he’s actually a starter. He has started two times this month and both outings were less than four complete innings, allowing seven earned runs to the Angels and five earned runs against the Seattle Mariners.

Probable starters:
Mon., Sept. 16, 6:40p Central: Reynaldo Lopez (9-13, 5.35 ERA) v Jose Berrios (12-8, 3.63)
Tues., Sept. 17, 6:40p Central: Lucas Giolito (14-9, 3.41) v Martin Perez (10-7, 4.89)
Wed., Sept. 18, 6:40p Central: Dylan Covey (1-8, 7.98) v Jake Odorizzi (14-6, 3.60)

vs Royals

The Bomba Squad has not seen the Royals in about 3,000 years. On my planet, that equates to about 1.5 months. The Twins swept the Royals at Target Field in their last series at the beginning of August. Since that time, they’ve gone 14-22, but they’ve won four of their last five series, just being swept by the Houston Astros. Also, their four series wins were against the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, and the White Sox.

Whit Merrifield is one of the players that is leading the way the past couple weeks for the Royals, batting .365/.389/.538. Even more on fire is Hunter Dozier, hitting .395/.435/.628 with two homers and seven RBI while Alex Gordon is still playing baseball and has been batting .344/.432/.469 with a homer and five RBI. They have a player named Ryan McBroom on their roster that they called up for September. He hasn’t done anything significant. His last name just makes me giggle.

The two teams do not have probable starters out this early in the week, and honestly, who knows what magic Rocco Baldelli is going to pull? The Royals will likely have Mike Montgomery, Jakob Junis, Glenn Sparkman, and Jorge Lopez go for this series. Not going to lie, this rotation sounds like a store-brand name gang.

If you didn’t remember (it’s okay, I didn’t), Montgomery was with the Chicago Cubs this year and was traded to the Royals for Martin Maldonado. Since being traded, he’s put up a 4.23 ERA over 11 starts and 55.1 innings with a 1.500 WHIP and every other stat is pretty blah. The Royals have lost four of the last five times that he’s started. Junis has seen the Twins twice this year, going 9.2 innings with only four earned runs and two bombas allowed between those two starts while striking out 13 batters. He’s allowed four earned runs or more in his last four outings. Sparkman has seen Minnesota three times, allowing 11 earned runs over 16.2 innings, including four bombas and only ten strikeouts. The Royals are 1-9 in his last ten outings. Ouch. Lopez has recently started starting for Kansas City and he’s actually done pretty well, allowing only six earned runs and striking out 13 batters in his last three starts.

The Royals pen still has Ian Kennedy, who’s converted 29 out of 33 save opportunities on the season, posting a 3.34 ERA. He’s allowed only one run and six hits in his last nine appearances. Another notable arm (and generic name extraordinaire) Tim Hill has been pitching well out of the ‘pen, posting a 3.55 ERA over 39 games. He’s mainly been used as a set-up man, allowing five earned runs over 13.0 innings and 15 appearances.

Can the Twins clinch the A.L. Central crown this week?

Anything’s possible if you put your mind to it. Cleveland hosts the Tigers this week, and we know how the Tigers are this season. If you didn’t know, they have lost over 100 games now on the season and their winning percentage is below .300. That’s how not good they are. The Spiders then host Bryce Harper and Charlie Manuel as the Philadelphia Phillies will be in Cleveland over the weekend. Cleveland is off today, so Minnesota can gain a half-game on them if they win tonight.

Tell me who’s injured, John.

Well Jake Cave was back in the lineup yesterday and hit some balls, so he will be available as needed moving forward. Marwin Gonzalez was taking batting practice this weekend and reports say that he’s looking to be available pretty quickly if there aren’t any hiccups with his progress. Nelson Cruz has been sidelined again, this time with a sore neck (probably from looking up at those bombas he hits, amirite??????) while Max Kepler is playing through some upper-chest tightness. On the pitching side of life, Sam Dyson is presumably out for the season with a biceps issue that will most likely require surgery.

Oh, Byron Buxton is out for the season, too.


Will the Twins clinch the A.L. Central crown this week?

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