Scott Diamond and Drew Butera, the Twins' two best pitchers, prepare to take on the White Sox. Photo by Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Series Preview: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

Let’s pretend the Sunday game in Milwaukee did not happen. Instead, the Twins (14-27) will try to ride some of the momentum from their recent four game winning streak into the Windy City, where they’ll take on the division-rival Chicago White Sox (21-21) in three rip-roaring thrillers.

The Matchups:

Tuesday, May 22, 7:10 p.m. CDT: RHP P.J. Walters vs. RHP Gavin Floyd

Wednesday, May 23, 7:10 p.m. CDT: LHP Scott Diamond vs. LHP Chris Sale

Thursday, May 24, 7:10 p.m. CDT: TBA vs. RHP Phil Humber

The Twins are throwing their three best pitchers at the White Sox. Diamond and Walters have been competent since their callups a couple weeks ago. The Thursday starter is yet to be announced (TBA), but I’ll go ahead and say right now that TBA is a better pitcher than any other starter the Twins have, even if he turns out to be a person the team randomly selects out of a phone book.

Walters has never faced the ChiSox, but Diamond made two starts against them last year. One of them, last August 31st, was his first Major League win (6.0 IP, 3 ER). The other was a loss (5.0 IP, 2 ER). Sale has been a Twin-killer in his career. He has eight appearances versus Minnesota, all in relief, and he has struck out 12 in nine innings with just one run allowed. The Twins should have a much easier time against Floyd, who owns an ugly 4-10 record and 5.67 ERA when he pitches to the Twins. Joe Mauer has a .421/.511/.816 line against him in 45 PAs, including three homers. No individual Twin has hit much against the former Twin Humber, but as a whole the team roster has a .440/.462/.480 line against him in 26 PAs.

The Head to Head:

These two franchises have been butting heads since the Dead Ball Era back in 1901. Unfortunately, the White Sox have the overall advantage, with 1,083 wins to the Twins’ 1,001.

The game Diamond won last season was actually the Twins’ 1,000th victory all time against the Sox, a little milestone that somehow went completely unnoticed. That game and Francisco Liriano‘s no-hitter made for a very eventful season series in 2011. The overall result was a split, with nine wins for either team. The White Sox have not won the season series against the Twins since 2005, when they took 11 of 18 en route to a World Series title.

The Weather:

Weather will not be a problem in Chicago this week. Expect temperatures in the 70s and 80s and plenty of sunshine.

The Story:

The Twins recently discovered that winning is actually kind of fun. After sweeping the Tigers in a mid-week miniseries, they hopped a plane to Milwaukee and delivered two blows to the Brewers before the debacle on Sunday. The main culprit of that blowout loss, Jason Marquis, has been let go, and the Twins will try to regain some dignity as they continue their trip around the Midwest. It’s the first meeting all year between these two rivals.

As usual, the key to this series for the Twins will be starting pitching. Walters and Diamond need to find a way to keep doing whatever has caused them to be so surprisingly effective. Quality starts from them and whoever pitches Thursday would be a huge boon. It would also be nice to see some continued production from Joe Mauer. After a desperate slump that drove his average down to the .260 range, Mauer has begun to hit again, including a four hit performance Sunday.

The White Sox are hanging around the .500 mark, which is good news in a division where .500 just might win the title. The Twins are fortunate to miss ace Jake Peavy, who leads the staff with five wins and a 2.39 ERA. But they won’t be able to avoid a resurgent Adam Dunn. Dunn was a miserable free agent flop last season, but he is quickly erasing that from the books by crushing every ball he sees this year. Dunn has a .390 OBP and 14 homers already.

The Other Side:

What are the White Sox thinking about this series? Let’s ask Matthew Adams of Southside Showdown, the greatest White Sox site ever.

1. Adam Dunn has rebounded in a big way after a historically-bad 2011. A quarter of the way through the season, he’s already ahead of his home run total from last year and on pace to finish with 54 longballs. Have White Sox fans forgiven him for 2011? Which Adam Dunn is the real one?

I’d say that they have.  I know I have.  I think everybody’s just really happy to finally see him perform like this.  We were all excited when the Sox signed him and to have it blow up like that was really hard to watch.  To Dunn’s credit he handled it about as well as a person could.  Adam-12 is clearly the real Adam Dunn.  He’s been terribly consistent for his entire career if you just remove that one awful, terrible, excuse-me-while-I-puke 2011 season.

2. Do you miss Mark Buehrle? How about Ozzie Guillen? I’m so used to 2 hour Twins vs. Sox games followed by an expletive-laden postgame interview, I don’t know what we’ll do without those two!

Well from the objective business standpoint I don’t miss Buehrle at all.  He was going to command much too much money and at some point you just have to stop being sentimental.  He was a serious fan favorite here, and still is but I think most fans are ok with his departure by now.  Especially since the staff we have in place has been performing pretty darn well.

With Ozzie, he really quit on the team, I don’t think that’s a question.  The question is when did he really start mailing it in?  It’s a little scary to think about.  I’ve got to say, it’s pretty nice to have a manager that just calmly takes care of the game.  Ozzie was entertaining, but I like watching the in-game action just fine, I don’t need the press conference to look forward to.

3. Can the Southsiders make the playoffs this year?

Sure they can!  From the beginning of the season I thought we had a shot but were likely to finish behind Detroit.  I felt there were a lot of things folks weren’t taking into account when they decided the Sox didn’t have a shot when the year started.

  1. So many players underachieved in 2011, even if those players continued with those performances, they wouldn’t be eating up the same amount of playing time in 2012.
  2. People gave Mark Buehrle a lot more credit than he probably deserved on a performance level.  He was a good picture, but not an irreplaceable one, and frankly Chris Sale was more successful coming out of the pen, with more experience than Buehrle was when he made the jump.
  3. Big bad Detroit got bigger and badder with the addition of Prince Fielder, but for whatever reason nobody paid much attention to the fact that Victor Martinez’s injury is what paved the way for that signing.  That’s a .330 hitter suddenly not there.

Basically, with just a few of the Sox question marks leaving less to question, they’ve put themselves in a position to be competitive.  Can they continue to be in the mix through September?  Health has a lot to do with it, just like with any team (I know I don’t have to tell <i>you</i> that) and a few other guys stepping it up can keep them fighting for a playoff spot.

The Bottom Line:

The Sox are a formidable opponent, but I like the Walters/Diamond two headed pitching monster. Let’s be optimistic and pick the Twins two out of three.

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Tags: Chicago White Sox Minnesota Twins P.J. Walters Scott Diamond

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