Minnesota Twins vs Milwaukee Brewers Series Preview

Jun 28, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) scores past Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (20) on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 28, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) scores past Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (20) on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

After Series Sweep, Minnesota Twins Look to Gain Ground

Fresh off a three game sweep over the once-hot Los Angeles Angels, the Minnesota Twins look to continue their winning ways against the Milwaukee Brewers in an interleague 4-game split series. The first two games will be played at Target Field, the last two in Milwaukee at Miller Park.

Third baseman Trevor Plouffe looks to avoid the disabled list with an intercostal strain (muscles between the ribs), but will likely be unavailable for the series. That opens a position for the Twins’ hottest hitter, and catalyst to the offensive explosion against the Angels, Eduardo Nunez.

He’ll slide over to third base, and let Eduardo Escobar resume shortstop duties. Unfortunately for the Twins, the loss of Plouffe’s bat comes just as Trevor was heating up. He had 8 hits in the three game series, lifting his average to .302 and is leading the club in RBI with 6.

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The Brewers (5-7) are actually struggling at the plate more than the Twins. The Brewers are 27th in batting average at .213 (Twins hitting .224) and have more strikeouts (114 vs 111), but they’ve scored 11 more runs since their average with runners in scoring position is the same as their team batting average, while the Twins hit nearly 80 points worse (.138) with RISP.

Last year, the Brewers were 4-2 against the Twins in interleague play. They took 2 of 3 in early June, with Mike Pelfrey‘s 8 shutout innings propelling the Twins to a 2-0 win. At the end of the month in Milwaukee, the Brewers took 2 of 3 again, this time Kyle Gibson pitched the Twins to a 5-2 win.

Monday Night Game

Chase Anderson (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs Phil Hughes (0-2, 4.38 ERA)

7:10 Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North PLUS

Tuesday Day Game

Wily Peralta (0-3, 10.13 ERA) vs Ervin Santana (0-1, 3.00 ERA)

12:10 Target Field

TV: MLB-TV (out of network only)

Wednesday Night Game

Tommy Milone (0-1, 5.06 ERA) vs Jimmy Nelson (2-1, 2.79 ERA)

7:10 Miller Park

TV: Fox Sports North PLUS

Thursday Day Game

Ricky Nolasco (0-0, 3.21 ERA) vs Taylor Jungmann (0-2, 9.00 ERA)

12:40 Miller Park

TV: Fox Sports North

Milwaukee: Started off 3-3 with a series win over the Houston Astros, but since then they have been out-scored 39-18 in their last six games. The Brewers are in last in arguably the best division in baseball, the NL Central, trailing the Cubs by 4 games after two weeks. The Brewers are still led by one-time MVP, Ryan Braun, and newly acquired slugger, former Astro, Chris Carter.

Offense: Milwaukee is an all or nothing team right now, scoring most of their runs via the long ball. With their low average, and high strikeout rate, coupled with a team depleted of veterans, Milwaukee is struggling with an identity crisis. Ryan Braun remains, but he is a shell of the 2011 MVP version of himself. He hit 2 of his 3 home runs, and 4 of his 7 RBI, in Friday’s 8-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Young shortstop, Jonathan Villar, was acquired in a trade in the off-season with Houston since his position looked to be manned for the next decade by Carlos Correa. He currently leads the Brewers in hitting (.273), but batted ninth yesterday, after the pitcher in the batting order.

Player(s) to Watch: Jonathon Lucroy. Veteran catcher, rumored in talks with many clubs (including the Twins) in the off-season, is a Twin-killer. He’s a lifetime .349 hitter against Twins pitching, and started off 2016 with a 7 game hit streak. Braun is hot versus the Twins as of late. In the six games against the Twins last year, he hit .500 with 5 XBH (2 HR) and 5 RBI.

Pitching: Milwaukee is 28th in pitching ERA (5.19), while the Twins rank 9th (3.44). They are last in getting opposing batters out via strikeout (only 74 in 12 games), while fifth highest in the number of walks (47). Clutch hitting, and hitting home runs with runners on base have salvaged their season so far.

Player to Watch: Chase Anderson. First Brewer since Teddy Higuera to open a season with back-to-back games without allowing an earned run. This all after struggling mightily in Spring Training (9.82 ERA in 5 starts). He has 9 K’s/2 BB’s, while only allowing a .211 batting average against him this year. He opens the series against Phil Hughes.

Twins: Finally breaking through in the win column Friday night, the Twins are now on an offensive roll after their 3 games sweep over the Angels. Joe Mauer‘s stats are looking more like his batting-title days, than the last two in which he struggled through concussion symptoms. Strikeout rate is back to Mauer levels (7.5 vs 16+ last two years), while his batting average, on base percentages, and even slugging rates are reminiscent of 2009, when he won his AL MVP.

Twins now getting more well-rounded, with five batters hitting over .280, and three over .300 ~ led by their new spark plug, Eduardo Nunez, who is batting an obscene .556. Twins made a front office move today, hiring Ron Gardenhire (remember him?) as an assistant to GM Terry Ryan. Gardy will tour minor league teams and help with instruction. Look for Gardy to latch on as a manager either as an in-season hire, or next off-season.

Next: 2016 Puckett's Staff Predictions

Strange, but True Stat of the Week: According to Elias Sports Bureau, only 1 team in Major League history (1871 Rockford Forest Citys), started off the season 0-9, and followed up that winless start with a winning streak of at least 3 games. Yesterday, both the Twins and the Atlanta Braves accomplished the same feat in the same afternoon. Both teams are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1991 World Series this year, though the Twins a little more fondly.