Minnesota Twins: A Southside Duel

Jun 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) delivers a pitch during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) delivers a pitch during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Look to Break Through Win Column Versus Chicago White Sox

0-6. 9-30.

Numbers against the Chicago White Sox (38-38) this year aren’t pretty. But as badly as the Minnesota Twins have played this year, if we  reversed the numbers of just the two series the Twins (24-51) and White Sox have played against one another this year, Minnesota would only trail the White Sox by two games in the win column.

That’s why when a manager says, “It’s early, the season is 162 games long…” they are forgetting how important every series actually is, especially those against division foes.

In the Twins’ first six games of the year, they lost three games by one run, and another two games by two runs. Early losses contributed to them spiraling down the drain by May.

Now, they face Chicago for their second go-around of the year. The White Sox have won 5-of-7 to crawl back to .500, 7.5 games out of first place.

The last time these two met, the White Sox were battling the Cubs for Second City supremacy. Now, the White Sox are clawing to stay in the Wild Card race.

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The Twins are a different team, to be sure, since the last time they met.

No Eddie Rosario, no Miguel Sano, and Oswaldo Arcia is now collecting three-hit games for the Tampa Rays.

The White Sox, on the other hand, signed a familiar face in Justin Morneau – though we’re likely to not see the big Canadian until these teams meet up at Target Field at the end of July.

Twins-killer, Austin Jackson is currently on the 15 day DL, but won’t return until August at the earliest.

The difference between Chicago in April/May and Chicago now is their lack of run support. Jose Quintana has 11 quality starts, an ERA hovering around three, and is 5-7. He is 0-6 (with two no-decisions) in his last eight starts.

Chris Sale has been the only White Sox pitcher that has been able to overcome the team’s offensive shortcomings.

Tuesday Night Game

Kyle Gibson (0-5, 6.05 ERA) vs Jose Quintana (5-7, 3.04 ERA)

7:10 CDT U.S. Cellular Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Wednesday Night Game

Ricky Nolasco (3-5, 4.95 ERA) vs James Shields (2-9, 6.22 ERA)

7:10 CDT U.S. Cellular Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Thursday Day Game

Tommy Milone (0-2, 5.33 ERA) vs Carlos Rodon (2-6, 4.09 ERA)

1:10 CDT U.S. Cellular Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Chicago White Sox: When we last left Chicago in early May, the White Sox were standing atop not only the AL Central, but the American League as a whole.

Their pitching (second only to the Cubs back then) had propelled them to 22-10 after the Twins left town. They would win the next day in Texas to up their record to 13 games over .500 – their high water mark for the year.

Since then, their pitching has fallen off from second in the league to 13th, about 1.25 runs higher. Their offense is nearly the same as the Twins, which has put them where they are now, at .500.

Only a recent hot stretch even got them to this point, as ten days ago they were three games under.

Pitching: The White Sox were sitting a half game behind the Royals on June 3rd, three games over .500. They couldn’t find a decent number three starter in their system behind Sale and Quintana, so they pulled the trigger on a trade with the Padres for veteran “Big Game” James Shields.

Shields was (2-7, 4.28 ERA) at the time for the anemic Padres, and Chicago was hoping a change of scenery, and a trade to a contending team, would bring out the best in Shields.

Not so much.

In four starts, Shields is 0-2 with a mind-boggling 15.80 ERA, striking out eight batters and walking 13.

So it’s Quintana, Sale, and pray for hail in White Sox land right now. After questionably designating Mat Latos for assignment in early June, despite his 6-2 record, and trading for Shields, the White Sox are grasping at straws.

With Shields all but guaranteed to pick up his player option at the end of the season, the White Sox are on the hook for $27-31 million left on his contract.

Player to Watch: Carlos Rodon. The White Sox score over five runs per game for the stingy Sale. Unfortunately for Quintana and Rodon, the hitting stops there. Both receive three runs per game of run support, a run less than their team average.

Rodon was erratically effective against the Minnesota Twins back in April. He threw six shutout innings, striking out six while walking five in a 3-0 White Sox win.

Hitting: Trading for Todd Frazier has been the biggest off-season acquisition of the year. Tied for second in the AL with 21 home runs, Frazier makes up for a poor average (.201) with timely, run-scoring hits (49 RBI).

The Twins would do well to pitch Frazier away this series.

Jose Abreu is having a productive – if unspectacular – season. His half-season totals are nearly average for Abreu, with only his home run numbers down.

Player to Watch: Brett Lawrie.

Like his Minnesota counterpart, Lawrie has struggled for most of 2016. And, like Brian Dozier, he’s heating up in June. Over the past week, he has raised his batting average 15 points, slugging three home runs in the process.

Minnesota Twins: Kyle Gibson is making his eighth start of the season tonight, and his eighth attempt at win number one.

Struggling with his control (22/17 K/BB), Gibson is 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA in his career (four starts) at U.S. Cellular Field.

Gibson is 4-0 lifetime versus Chicago, his best lifetime record against any opposing team.

With the failure of the James Shields experiment, teams may cool on a similar reclamation project, Ervin Santana.

His lifetime averages are what is making Santana a possible trade target, with his 2-7 record and 4.74 ERA serving hopefully as an anomaly to prospective trade partners.

Plenty of scouts from other teams will be in the stands this week to look at another Twins’ starter, Ricky Nolasco.

The Twins may need to do what San Diego did to unload Shields, that is, pay a hefty portion of his remaining contract to get him off the future books.

Notes: The Minnesota Twins are using their “A” lineup once again, with Byron Buxton manning spacious U.S. Cellular Field’s center field.

Miguel Sano has been in five rehab games for AAA Rochester, going 2-for-12 in the process. He started in right field last night, hitting his first rehab home run, though he also committed an error.

J.T. Chargois has been named to the All-Star Game Futures roster, the only minor leaguer for the Minnesota Twins to gain that honor this year.

Next: Twins Weekly MiLB Weekly All-Star Edition

The Futures Game will be played the Sunday (July 10th) before the All-Star Game in San Diego.