Series Preview: Twins at Yankees, April 16-19


It’s time to play the Yankees. The Twins get to spend a lot of time doing that, in fact, because tonight they begin a lengthy four game series in New York. All four contests are night games, which is good news if you’re afraid the boss will catch you checking the scores during work.

The Matchups:

Monday, April 16, 6:05 p.m. CDT: RHP Carl Pavano vs. RHP Freddy Garcia

Tuesday, April 17, 6:05 p.m. CDT: LHP Francisco Liriano vs. LHP C.C. Sabathia

Wednesday, April 18, 6:05 p.m. CDT: RHP Jason Marquis vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda

Thursday, April 19, 6:05 p.m. CDT: RHP Nick Blackburn vs. RHP Phil Hughes

Blackburn has not been officially announced as Thursday’s starter yet. He left his last start with a shoulder injury, but fortunately the Twins medical staff diagnosed it as just a cramp. Then again, the Twins medical staff’s recent track record ranks right up there with Dr. Nick Riviera, so watch Blackburn closely.

Also keep an eye on Liriano. He has had some success against this crop of Yankee hitters: in 208 plate appearances, the Yankee roster is hitting just .214 off him. If he can get past Derek Jeter (.350 average against Liriano) and Brett Gardner (.385), this could be a good chance for Liriano to bounce back from an awful start.

Other notable matchups: Alexi Casilla is hitting .600 (9 for 15) against Sabathia. Joe Mauer has a .419/.486/.774 line against Garcia in 35 PAs. Andruw Jones has just 12 PAs against Marquis, but he has an astounding five home runs and a 2.833 OPS. No Twin has ever faced Kuroda other than Josh Willingham (1 for 9) and Ryan Doumit (2 for 13).

The Weather:

 The weather should be good for baseball. High temperatures in the Bronx will start in the mid 80s on Monday and slowly decline throughout the week. After a day in the 70s on Tuesday, temps will only climb to the mid 60s Wednesday and Thursday. All four games are night games, so things should be a little cooler by gametime. There is only a minor threat of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Head to Head:

This rivalry has a 111 year history, dating back to April 29, 1901, when the Washington Senators defeated the Baltimore Orioles 1-0 (that version of the Orioles moved to New York in 1903, and the Senators became the Twins in 1961). Hopefully they cherished that victory, because they’ve been few and far between ever since. The Yankees hold a 1,111-768 advantage in this series. The Twins’ .409 winning percentage against the Yankees is by far their lowest against any team, and the 1,111 losses is the most.

That’s not counting the playoff contests, but we’ll not get into that.

The Story:

New York will spend this season in a fierce battle for supremacy in the AL East. All five teams in that division are either 4-5 or 5-4, and from experience we know that Boston, New York, and Tampa will be in the hunt all season long. Toronto may join the fray as well. The Yankees spent the weekend winning two of three over the Angels, a feat the Twins matched earlier in the week. Prior to the Angel series, the Yankees swept the Orioles, who had swept the Twins the weekend before.

The Twins are in the midst of a vicious April schedule that has already pitted them against the best of the AL West. Now they head east to face some teams that have given them a lot of trouble lately: the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox. A winning record in April might be too much to expect from the Twins, but they have to at least remain competitive if they want to generate any momentum for the rest of the season. A series split in New York would have to be considered a moral victory (a series win would be an incredible boost, but let’s take baby steps here).

In order to win in the Bronx, the Twins will need some better starting pitching and some production from the middle of their lineup. Liam Hendriks finally earned the Twins first quality start yesterday; Pavano, Liriano, and company will need to extend that streak against the Yankees, because this team can beat up on a bullpen. Aside from Josh Willingham, the heart of the Twins’ batting order has been eerily quiet this April. Jamey Carroll, Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Danny Valencia need to start collecting hits in bunches.