The Twins have their backs against the wall, and they need wins now. This weekend may be their only hope for salvation for a long time, with the bottom-feeding Kansas City Royals in town.
This three day battle features three Minnesota right-handers against three Kansas City lefties.
Pavano has a less than stellar 5.28 career ERA versus Kansas City in 18 games. He should avoid pitching to Billy Butler at all costs. Butler owns a line of .429/.451/.673 against him with two homers in 51 plate appearances. Marquis has more promising numbers against the current Royal roster. They hold just a .589 OPS against him in 40 PAs. Surprisingly, Nick Blackburn also pitches well against the current Royals’ hitters. He has allowed just a .584 OPS (118 PAs) against them. In his career, though, he has just a 2-3 record with a 4.82 ERA against Kansas City.
Saturday might be a great day to give Joe Mauer his first off day of the season. Not only is it a day after night game, but Mauer has just three hits in 16 at bats versus Chen. Danny Valencia, on the other hand, should be in the lineup. He has a 1.249 OPS against Chen in 19 PAs. Teaford has pitched a grand total of one inning against the Twins. Mauer was the only batter to get a hit that inning. Sanchez, who was with the NL’s Giants until this season, has never faced the Twins. Jamey Carroll (four for 13) and Ryan Doumit (one for eight) are the only current Twins to have ever faced him. This might be a good opportunity for Twins scouts to see him, though; Sanchez is a free agent after this season and the Twins will be desperate to sign a starter or two.
It will not be a nice weekend for baseball. The weather will be cloudy, cold, and probably rainy. There is a 40% chance of rain on Friday and a 60% chance on Saturday, and temperatures will not rise above the low to mid 50s. If you’re planning to watch this series, you might want to do so from the comforts of your home.
The Head to Head:
The Twins have dominated this 45 year old series with a 350-308 record, including 185-142 at home. Even last season, when the Twins were scraping the bottom of baseball’s barrel, they managed to defeat Kansas City more often than not, with 10 wins in 18 games. The Royals have not won a season series against the Twins since 2003, which was also the last time they finished over .500.
Pavano’s 4.73 ERA is by far the best among Twins starters. Second best is Anthony Swarzak, who has posted a 6.75 ERA in his three starts. Swarzak has done much better as a reliever (no runs allowed in five innings), as has the team as a whole. Minnesota’s bullpen owns a respectable 3.73 ERA compared to a hideous 7.09 mark for the starters. The pitiful starting pitching has often meant that the Twins find themselves behind by two or three runs before they even bat during home games.
It is to be hoped that the Royals can solve the Twins’ starting pitching problems. Despite a healthy .261 team batting average, the Royals have scored just 3.78 runs per game, third worst in the American League (the Twins, sadly, have scored just 3.74). Kansas City snapped a 12 game losing streak on Wednesday, but they land in Minneapolis with a two game winning streak after a pair of wins over the Indians. Since both the Royals and Twins enter the series with identical 5-14 records, the loser will own sole possession of last place in the AL Central.
The Twins might have a hard time with Chen. The 34 year old lefty averages just 87 mph on his fastball, but he always seems to kill the Twins. In four starts last year he had just a 2.39 ERA versus Minnesota with a 1-1 record. Chen owns as many quality starts – three – as the entire Twins’ staff so far this season.
But one advantage for the Twins will be injuries. Sure, Minnesota has lost Scott Baker for the season, and Josh Willingham may miss the first game due to the birth of his child, but Kansas City has a very full Disabled List. Pitchers Joakim Soria, Blake Wood, Felipe Paulino, and Greg Holland join hitters Salvador Perez, Manny Pina, and Lorenzo Cain in the ranks of Royal injured.
The Bottom Line:
The Twins need to win this series. They just dropped three games against a Boston team that had been struggling, so it would be an utter embarrassment for Kansas City to kick them while they’re down. If Minnesota has any hope of salvaging the 2012 season, they need to start by winning this series in a convincing fashion.