The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim provided the Twins’ only series victory so far this season. Minnesota beat Los Angeles in two of the three games earlier this month, right when the Twins were licking their wounds from a sweep by the Orioles. After a disappointing homestand, another series win would be welcome now. The Twins can take the first step toward that when they open a three game series in Southern California tonight.
Tuesday’s start will be crucial for Liriano. The Twins skipped his turn in the rotation last week after four ugly starts. The calendar will flip a page before he takes the mound. Hopefully that change will help him. Last year, Liriano put up a 2.52 ERA in May, and his first start of that month was a no-hitter. He owns a 7.66 ERA against the Angels in 22.1 innings – his worst mark against any opposing team. Blackburn has not fared much better, putting up a 5.71 ERA and a 1-4 record in seven starts. Hendriks is facing the Angels for the first time.
The 30 year old Williams has spent most of his career in the National League, so he only has eight innings of work against the Twins (three runs allowed). Sean Burroughs and Josh Willingham faced him in the NL. Burroughs went four for 14 and Willingham is four for nine with a homer. Weaver is one of the best pitchers in the AL, but the Twins managed to hit him hard in Minnesota in the last series. Overall, he’s 5-2 against the Twins with a 4.19 ERA in 11 starts. Wilson held the Twins to just one run in seven innings in that series, but Josh Willingham hit a homer in that game. Willingham’s lifetime line against Wilson is .381/.409/.810.
The weather will be similar for all three days. Temperatures will reach the upper 60s and lower 70s in the daytime. There will be some clouds and a slight chance of rain, but nothing to worry about.
The Head to Head:
The Twins have a 2-1 lead in this season’s series against the Angels, which brings their all time record to 325-348. Minnesota lost a pair of three game series in Anaheim last season, but they do not have to look back very far to find some victories. In 2010 the Twins opened the season by taking three out of four against the Angels.
The Twins’ homestand was not a complete loss, but it was unfortunate. The Red Sox swept the Twins in dispiriting fashion, letting Minnesota get within one run in two of the three games. The Royals also beat the Twins by a single run last Friday. After a rainout on Saturday, the team regrouped and put together a strong effort in a 7-4 win on Sunday. Pitching remains a concern for the Twins. They are dead last in the American League with a 5.77 ERA, thanks mostly to some terrifying outings by their starters. On offense, the Twins are hitting, but they are not driving in runs. The Twins rank fourth in the AL with a .263 batting average, but they are third to last with only 77 runs scored. Part of the problem is a power shortage; Minnesota has hit just 14 home runs, last in the league.
In that category, the Twins have some company. Los Angeles is barely ahead of the Twins with 15 homers hit. They’ve actually scored one fewer run than the Twins (76). High priced acquisition Albert Pujols is a symbol his team’s hitting woes. He enters play with a wimpy .581 OPS, and though he has hit 445 homers in his career, none have come this season. Unlike the Twins, though, pitching has not been a big problem for the Angels. Their team ERA of 4.14 is right around the league average, and Weaver and Wilson in particular have been hard to hit.
Still, this is a disappointing start to the season for the Angels. When they signed Wilson and Pujols, they signaled that they plan to compete for a World Series championship in 2012. Already nine games behind the division leading Rangers, the Angels have their backs against the wall.
The Bottom Line:
This is the third consecutive series for the Twins where they have a chance to right the ship against a struggling opponent. They failed in the first attempt against Boston, and they came away with mixed results against Kansas City. Can they do better against the Angels?