Minnesota Twins vs Boston Red Sox Weekend Series Preview

Jun 18, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) and teammates make way for first baseman Mike Napoli (12) (not pictured) at home plate after hitting the game winning home run against the Minnesota Twins in the tenth inning at Fenway Park. The Red Sox defeated the Twins 2-1. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) and teammates make way for first baseman Mike Napoli (12) (not pictured) at home plate after hitting the game winning home run against the Minnesota Twins in the tenth inning at Fenway Park. The Red Sox defeated the Twins 2-1. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Welcome Back Big Papi For the Last Time

Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and 1,000,000 fish stories of “The One That Got Away”. David Ortiz is the living embodiment to Twins fans, but he really was more of a catch and release tale. They had him. In the boat. They admired him for a while, and decided to throw him back,

Back when the Twins Way was becoming trendy, and Terry Ryan’s moves were the stuff of legend  – who could forget the A.J. Pierzynski trade? Conversely, the release of Ortiz would forever haunt the franchise who searched for the missing piece, a big home run-hitting RBI man, to get them over the top.

Now, Ortiz, or as Boston will forever call him, Big Papi, comes back for the last time as a baseball player to Minnesota (18-41), as Boston (34-25) comes to town for three games, and plenty of tributes to the career of David Ortiz.

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Unfortunately for Ortiz, the MLB schedule-makers had the Red Sox visit in early June instead of the end of August. Big Papi loved him some Minnesota State Fair. He loved Minnesotans too. He just didn’t get along with the manager of the big league club at that time. While we were still cleaning recently erected statues to Tom Kelly, the Twins were back to the dregs of the American League.

Kelly still pushed for batters to be able to utilize the whole field, take the pitch the other way for a single if needed. He saw a powerful young outfielder who was too slow in the field, and despite his home runs (20 in the year we released him), couldn’t hit the Twins Way.

Take a step back in time, just 17 years. There was no “Ortiz Shift”, hardly any shifts in baseball. Now, every time Ortiz comes to the plate, there are three infielders on the right side of the field, plus two outfielders. While Twins, and their fans, may be dissatisfied with Brian Dozier‘s inability to use the whole field and to hit against the shift to raise his average, I don’t think Terry Ryan will be releasing him at season’s end.

Friday Night Game

Steven Wright (6-4, 2.29 ERA) vs Tyler Duffey (2-4, 4.79 ERA)

7:10 CDT Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Saturday Day Game

Eduardo Rodriguez (1-1, 5.40 ERA) vs Kyle Gibson (0-3, 6.10 ERA)

1:10 CDT Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Sunday Day Game

Rick Porcello (7-2, 4.04 ERA) vs Pat Dean (1-2, 4.75 ERA)

1:10 CDT Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Boston: Currently second in the AL East, two games back of the Orioles. Boston owns the best run differential in the American League (+70) by virtue of having the highest scoring offense in the League. Their 342 runs is tops in baseball, and 39 more runs than the AL’s second-best, the Seattle Mariners.

The Twins, by the way, sit at -90 run differential, scoring the least – oops, they passed the Royals – the second least amount of runs in the AL (225). Boston ranks first in runs, hits, total bases, average, OBP, and OPS.

With the Twins ranking near the bottom of nearly every pitching category, we could be in for some carnage at Target Field. But these Twins seem to play competitive baseball against the best pitchers (3-1 record vs former Cy Young winners), and fall flat against the worst. As they say, “This is why you play the games.”

Offense: Amid all the offense, two separate Boston hitters have had hitting streaks of over 25 games. Xander Bogaerts‘ streak ended at 26 games last week, Jackie Bradley Jr’s streak ended at 29 just over two weeks ago. Boston has four hitters that are hitting better than .310 one third of the way into this season.

David Ortiz has learned to hit against the shift, this year putting together a career year in his final year. His .338 average ranks third in the AL, and leads in OBP, slugging, and OPS. His 43 extra base hits are five more than second place Manny Machado. He’s even cut down on his strikeouts this year – his 33 K’s rank him tied for 95th in the AL, two less than the Twins’ Byron Buxton. And Buxton has spent more than half the season so far at AAA Rochester.

Player to Watch: Being the David Ortiz special edition, who else could it be? He will be cheered at every at-bat, and the crowd will rise in unison with every well hit ball to the outfield. While Twins’ fans will want the Twins to win, they hope for one last Big Papi moment. He has a career 9 home runs in Target Field, though only one against Twins pitchers he’ll face this weekend (Fernando Abad).

Pitching: Coming into 2016, the Red Sox weren’t sure what they had behind starters David Price and Clay Buchholz. Rick Porcello had an awful 2015 (9-15, 4.92 ERA) and was thought to be fighting for a spot in the rotation.

Knuckleballer, Steven Wright had shown flashes in the second half last year, going 5-4 in 9 starts, but walks and home runs (12) were proving a problem. Flash forward to 2016, and Porcello and Wright are the two starters holding this rotation together behind the high-priced Price.

A combined 16 quality starts, and 13 wins between them, with Porcello just two wins shy of last year’s total in early June. Wright, on the other hand, is going for his fourth straight complete game on the road against the Twins. This, in a time where there have only been 30 complete games thrown in all of baseball this whole season.

Player to Watch: Steven Wright. Yes, his name sounds familiar. And it’s spelled exactly like the comedian who spouts such observations as, “If you had everything, where would you put it?” And “What’s another word for Thesaurus?” Yeah, that guy.

Wright is making the knuckleball cool again, in a park where little mistakes are magnified with the short porch in left field. No surprise then, that his away stats overshadow his home pitching stats. His road 1.79 ERA and .166 batting average against don’t bode well for Twins hitting.

Last year, he faced the Twins at Fenway Park, with the Twins winning 8-4. Wright got a no decision, allowing 4 runs (3 earned) with Kurt Suzuki going 3-3, and Torii Hunter getting a home run. Expect a Suzuki start tonight.

Minnesota: The Minnesota Twins welcome back Kyle Gibson to the team, activating him for his start on Saturday. Twins placed Phil Hughes on the disabled list after taking a liner to his knee during last night’s game.

The Twins also placed Trevor May on the DL after his back problems re-surfaced. Spasms had forced him to not be available for several games, and after last night’s performance (3 runs, no outs recorded), the Twins shelved him.

With that, there needed to be a corresponding move, and the Minnesota Twins recalled J.T. Chargois from Rochester. Yes, the Chargois Era has begun. His last name is pronounced Shag-wah, and many have been clamoring for him to be promoted since his performances in Spring Training.

Next: Twins Game Grades as They Drop Series Finale

We’ll see if he starts out as a setup man, or as a closer. In twelve games after being promoted to AAA, Chargois posted a 0.73 ERA, with 20 strikeouts in 12.1 innings. Opponents batted just .140 off of him in his 11 games.

Notes: Oswaldo Arcia left last night’s game as well, and X-rays on his foot were negative. He is expected to be held out of the next couple days as a precaution.