First Pitch: 6:15 pm CDT
TV: FOX/ ~ / Radio: TIBN
Lots to get to, so let’s jump right in.
The Twins have a 6-game lead over the second-place, sub-.500 Cleveland Guardians, which is tied for their largest margin of clearance so far in 2023. As the relative low intensity of the Central marches on, the AL West has engaged itself in a bit of a dogfight. The Seattle Mariners have won nine of their last ten (and have only lost five times since the end of July; the Texas Rangers lost their eighth consecutive ballgame in the rout last night.
And, as always, the Houston Astros are right in the mix, a game back but tied with both Seattle and Texas at 72 wins exactly.
As these three teams fight each other for wins and positioning, there’s a sneaky outcome the Minnesota Twins could find themselves benefitting from. For as much as the AL Central has been derided as baseball’s worst division this year (this decade, this millennium, since three-division play was introduced, etc.) it’s still possible that the Twins could earn one of the top two seeds in the American League and benefit from a first-round bye.
The Mariners and Rangers have seven more games on the docket with each other; Seattle and Houston play three more times, and Texas will host the ‘Stros for one more three-game set. If Minnesota keeps winning, and these three contending teams keep winning games against each other, the Twins could wind up finishing with more victories than the AL West winner, and wind up bypassing the Wild Card Series entirely.
There are likelier outcomes — like, the Twins continue to play at their current pace, and one of the three West teams runs away with the division — but don’t forget that Minnesota’s remaining strength of schedule features a lot of teams like the Mets, White Sox, Angels, Athletics, and Rockies, as well as three more games against these very same Rangers.
Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but there are 33 more games to be played, which means the jockeying-for-playoff-positioning conversation is pretty much upon us.
Also upon us? Jockeying for roster position. The Twins made the following move ahead of tonight’s matchup:
The Twins have optioned Jordan Balazovic to make room for Joe Ryan, who will start tonight.— Betsy Helfand (@betsyhelfand) August 26, 2023
Balazovic’s optioning more or less confirms the hinted-at direction of a six-man rotation, meaning we’ll get to see some more of that good old-fashioned Dallas Keuchel after his near-perfect outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates last time out. Meanwhile, Ryan will make his second start of the month, having officially hit the IL after a four-inning, 7-run start in the St. Louis interleague set.
Ryan’s mound opponent is none other than Max Scherzer, he of the 2.66 ERA, 30 K in 23.2 IP, and 3-1 record since being moved from the New York Mets. We’re all deeply familiar with Scherzer; he’s a surefire Hall of Famer and spent a lot of time within Minnesota’s division. But due to the National League bent of his later career, you might be surprised to notice that Scherzer hasn’t faced the Twins in nearly ten years. Scherzer’s last start against Minnesota was his last start of 2014, a 4-2 victory for the Detroit Tigers just ahead of their first-round playoff exit to Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Jonathan Schoop, and Delmon Young’s Baltimore Orioles (and Scherzer’s offseason exit to Washington.)
Also of note...that 2014 Tiger team featured Alex Avila, Torii Hunter, and Joe Nathan.
Finally, if you’re looking for the telecast tonight, look no further than your local FOX affiliate, where you’ll be bound to hear the dulcet tones of A.J. Pierzynski.
GO TWINS GO!