Series Preview: Twins at Tigers, May 16-17


After dropping two straight to the Indians, the Minnesota Twins are now just 1-8-3 in series play this year. It’s time for another short series; this one happens in Detroit, where the Twins (10-26) will play two quick games against the Tigers (18-18).

The Matchup:

Wednesday, May 16, 6:05 p.m. CDT: RHP Nick Blackburn vs. RHP Rick Porcello

Thursday, May 17, 12:05 p.m. CDT: RHP P.J. Walters vs. RHP Doug Fister

Porcello can beat the Twins – he holds a 2.86 ERA in 12 career starts. But the Twins might have a little offensive success if they get the first two hitters on. Denard Span is hitting .364 in 22 at bats, and Jamey Carroll is hitting .400 in 10 at bats versus Porcello. Fister also owns a nice ERA against the Twins (3.24), but since he spent much of his career with the weak-hitting Mariners, his record versus Minnesota is just 1-4. Span can hit Fister as well, with a 1.071 OPS in 14 plate appearances.

Plenty of Tigers have good lines against Blackburn, so we won’t list them all here. But slugger Miguel Cabrera has had the most success, with a .448/.484/.793 slash line in 31 PAs. Walters has only faced the Tigers once in his career. Back on June 16, 2009, while he was with the Cardinals, Walters tossed two innings versus Detroit. The first batter he faced was Cabrera, who hit a home run. The rest of the outing was scoreless, and the Cards won 11-2.

The Weather:

Highs will hover near 70 both days, and rain is possible, but not likely.

The Head to Head:

Since 1901, the Detroit franchise has done well against the Washington/Minnesota franchise. Detroit holds a 1,055-971 head to head advantage. Since the Twins were born in 1961, things have been much brighter. Among Minnesota vs. Detroit matchups, the Twins have 383 wins to the Tigers’ 339, including some key victories with playoff implications. The Twins eliminated the Tigers in the 1987 ALCS, and they also beat them in Game 163 in 2009.

Last year, though, the Tigers severely pummeled the Twins, winning 14 of 18. Detroit currently rides a three game win streak against the Twins.

The Story:

Nearly a quarter of the way through the season, the Twins have not yet played a game against their division rival (excepting a Spring Training matchup which the Twins won 7-3). The Tigers, who have fallen slightly behind division leader Cleveland, are no doubt eager to face the AL Central’s weakest team.

If nothing else, at least one good thing will happen in this series: the Twins get Justin Morneau back. The oft-injured slugger missed the minimum 15 days after hitting the DL with a sore wrist. Chris Parmelee, who had been struggling, was sent to Rochester to make room for Morneau.

Aside from Morneau’s return, the picture looks quite bleak for the Twins. They lost a heartbreaker Monday night when closer Matt Capps surrendered a run after an impressive rally tied the score, and they failed to put a run across versus 38 year old wonder Derek Lowe Tuesday afternoon. In both games, the starting pitching was as unreliable as it has been all season long. No Twins pitcher with more than three starts this season has an ERA under 5.14. Four of them have put up ERAs over 6.50. Extreme numbers like those are not usually seen outside the very early stages of a season, but the Twins have proven the ability to maintain awful pitching over large sample sizes.

Meanwhile, Detroit is not hitting as well as one might expect. Despite the addition of super-slugger Prince Fielder, the team is just ninth in the AL in OPS (.704) heading into Tuesday. That mark is still 39 points above the Twins, but far from the performance one would expect from a contending team that relies on its bats. On the mound, the Tigers are just 10th in the AL in pitching with a 4.43 ERA. They are tied for the league lead in strikeouts per nine innings, though, with 8.3. The Twins will probably struggle to put balls in play the next two days.

This will be the first time all year the Twins face former teammate Delmon Young. They saw him last year, but that was before he was accused of a hate crime in a truly embarassing incident last month. Young would undoubtedly face some boos from the crowd if this game were held in Minnesota. As it is, the Tiger fans may make some unpleasant noises of their own when Young bats. In addition to his reprehensible off-field behavior, Young is hitting just .234/.297/.318.

The Bottom Line:

Don’t worry about how many games the Twins will win. Just be grateful they managed to avoid Justin Verlander this series. They made Lowe look like a Hall of Famer yesterday, so it’s scary to think what an actual ace could do to this lineup.