The series winning streak is over, but the Twins (25-37) will try to start a new one this weekend, as they take on the Milwaukee Brewers (28-35).
None of these three Twins pitchers started a game in the Twins’ last series against Milwaukee in mid-May. Blackburn was on the Disabled List with a quad strain, Hendriks was down in AAA after being set down the previous week, and Liriano was serving a demotion to the bullpen. All three have triumphantly returned to the rotation, though that circumstance is due more to the misfortunes that have befallen the Twins’ other starters. Carl Pavano and Jason Marquis both started games last time against the Brewers; Pavano is now on the DL and Marquis has been released. P.J. Walters joined Pavano on the injured list this week, which means that Hendriks will almost certainly be called up again to make the Saturday start, though that is not written in stone. Liriano has had some success against the Brewers; he’s 4-2 with a 3.63 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 34.2 innings.
On the Brewer side of the equation, Greinke shut the Twins down for 6.2 innings last series in a 16-4 Brewer win that will forever be remembered as The Game Drew Butera Pitched. Despite that victory, Greinke is still just 4-8 with a 4.75 career ERA against the Twins. Gallardo also faced the Twins last time around, and he took the loss despite allowing just one earned run in six innings. Fiers is a rookie who has never pitched against Minnesota.
The Head to Head:
After a Minnesota series victory (2-1) last month, the Twins have a 225-213 all-time advantage over the Brewers. If they take two of three this weekend, they’ll win the season series against Milwaukee for the first time since 2009. The Brew Crew has won 4-2 each of the last two years.
The Twins were showing signs of life throughout early June, but whatever hopes had sprouted from victories over Oakland, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Chicago were mowed down against the Philadelphia Phillies this week. They came within a half game of the Royals in the quest to not be in last place in the AL Central, but Kansas City has now widened that gap to 2.5.
The Twins managed to hold their rotation together with duct tape for a few weeks, but now its weaknesses are starting to become painfully apparent once again. The starting five consist of Scott Diamond, Liriano, Hendriks, Blackburn, and Unknown. That’s one rookie overachiever, three pitchers who previously been demoted this season and whose ERAs are all at least 6.45, and one pitcher who will have to be scrounged from the bullpen or AAA when his spot in the rotation comes around. The starting pitching situation is utterly horrid.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee counters with two former All Stars (Greinke and Gallardo) this weekend. Greinke is pitching brilliantly in his contract year, with a 2.96 ERA and 10.1 K/9. Gallardo got off to a slow start, but he has gotten on track with seven quality starts in his last eight games. The Brewers are actually 13th in the National League with a 4.26 ERA, but those two starters are not to blame.
On offense, the Brewer bats are quite formidable. Don’t let their .240 team batting average fool you – this team can pound the ball. They have socked 74 homers, compared to 50 for the Twins. Despite being seven games below .500, the Brewers are not yet out of the NL Central race. Cincinnati leads the division at 35-27, but other than the Reds it’s a weak division. If Cincinnati were to stumble, the Brewers could make a run. Then again, they’re coming off a sweep at the hands of the lowly Royals, so this is clearly a team with its share of problems.
The Bottom Line:
Yuck. This has all the makings of a forgettable series. Greinke is always fun to watch, but otherwise this is a contest between two subpar teams with little to play for. Unfortunately, the Brewers are likely to win two of three.