Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Minnesota Twins, June 8-10


It’s time for another round of interleague play. Today the Chicago Cubs (19-38) come to Minneapolis to face the Twins (22-34) in a battle between two of baseball’s worst teams.

The Matchups:

Friday, June 8, 7:10 p.m. CDT: RHP P.J. Walters vs. LHP Travis Wood

Saturday, June 9, 1:10 p.m. CDT: LHP Scott Diamond vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija

Sunday, June 10, 1:10 p.m. CDT: LHP Francisco Liriano vs. RHP Ryan Dempster

Walters has faced the Cubs on four occasions, thanks to his days with the Cardinals, but thanks to roster turnover, only three current Cubs have faced him. Among them is Alfonso Soriano, whom Walters has struck out five times in five at bats. Diamond has never faced the Cubs. Surprisingly, neither has Liriano, despite being on the Twins’ roster the last two times these teams played each other.

The Cubs’ pitchers will be a complete mystery to the Twins. Wood and Samardzija have thrown a combined zero pitches against Minnesota. Dempster has faced them twice, and the Twins knocked him around for a total of 11 runs in five innings. But the last time he saw the Twins was back in 2006, so the only current Minnesota hitters he’s faced are Josh Willingham, Jamey Carroll, and Ryan Doumit. Doumit is a weak .174/.240/.174 in 25 plate appearances.

The Head to Head:

This is the first meeting between the Twins and Cubs since 2009, and it’s the first visit by the Cubs to Minnesota since 2006. The streak probably does not mean much, given the long time between matchups, but the Twins have won five of the last six in this series. Overall, though, the Cubs have a very slight edge, having won 11 of the 21 games since they first met in interleague play back in 1997.

The Weather:

We’ll have some warm weather this weekend. Like a typical Twins’ fastball, temperatures on Saturday and Sunday will scrape the low 90s, which might make the day games a little uncomfortable.

The Story:

With seven wins in nine games, the Twins are in their first hot streak of the season. They swept the Athletics and then went on to win series against the Indians and Royals. After six starts, Diamond continues to impress. He now holds a 1.86 ERA and a 4-1 record. As strange as it may seem, Liriano is starting to rival Diamond as the team’s most consistent starter. Since returning to the rotation, he has allowed just one run in 12 innings with 17 strikeouts. It’s difficult to tell if Liriano really has improved as a pitcher or if his success owes more to the awful lineups fielded by the Athletics and Royals.

The Cubs might not prove much more of a test than those lightweights. Their hitters have accumulated just a .244/.303/.380 line (the OBP and SLG totals are both 14th in the National League). Chicago is not a great pitching club, either. Their 4.24 ER A is also 14th in their league. If not for the fact that the Cubs frequently pitch to opposing pitchers, their team ERA might rival the Twins’ 5.02 mark.

The good news for the Twins is that the aforementioned ERA is no longer worst in baseball. Colorado (5.10) recently passed them up. The Twins’ bullpen has been downright decent with an 8-6 record and a 3.44 ERA. The starters are still 14-28, and worst in baseball with a 6.06 ERA.

The Bottom Line:

The Cubs are an opponent the Twins can handle. Look for the Twins to win this series, and a sweep is not out of the question if Liriano can keep up his solid pitching.