Minnesota Twins vs Texas Rangers Weekend Series Preview

Jun 29, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Texas Rangers center fielder Ian Desmond (20) walks in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 29, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Texas Rangers center fielder Ian Desmond (20) walks in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Host AL’s Best Rangers For Weekend Set

All you need to know about Texas is that they’ve lost two straight and the Houston Astros have won 9 of their last 10. Yet, the Rangers are still 8.5 games up in the AL West. The Cleveland Indians have won 13 straight and still look up to Texas. That’s how good they’ve been.

And now, Minnesota (25-53) will try to win a series against a team who has won twice as many games this year (51-29) before the All-Star break. Luckily for the Twins, Yu Darvish (21 strikeouts in two starts versus the Twins) is still on the disabled list.

In another bit of good news, Miguel Sano was just activated off the DL for the Minnesota Twins in time for tonight’s game, where he’ll bat third in the lineup and play…third base! Trevor Plouffe will rest his groin another night by batting as the DH, a spot that opened up after the Twins optioned Korean slugger Byung-ho Park to AAA Rochester after yesterday’s game.

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The next couple weeks will be an audition time for the Twins. One, to keep Plouffe as healthy as possible and showcase his versatility at the same time by having him split time at first base with Joe Mauer as well. In Plouffe’s case, it’s an audition for possibly another team, with the trade deadline coming at the end of this month.

For Sano, it’s to see what they’ve got as far as an infielder goes. They know Sano can play first base after his time there last year. They know he can NOT play right field after his time there this year. If Sano can play a respectable third base and rotate between there and first base, and occasionally some time as DH, the Twins’ front office can plot around Sano.

If it proves that Sano is destined for a 1B/DH role, a combo position the Twins have 3 players stuck at, then general manager Terry Ryan may even look to move Park before July 31st. But first, a series against the AL-leading Rangers.

Friday Night Game

Martin Perez (7-4, 3.44 ERA) vs Ervin Santana (2-7, 4.64 ERA)

7:10 PM CDT Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Saturday Afternoon Game

Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-0, 9.00 ERA) vs Tyler Duffey (3-6, 5.59 ERA)

1:10 PM CDT Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Sunday Afternoon Game

Cole Hamels (9-1, 2.60 ERA) vs Kyle Gibson (1-5, 5.12 ERA)

1:10 PM CDT Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Texas: Texas leads the AL in wins despite not having the best pitching nor the best hitting. They lead the league in walk-off losses with 9 already this year. Despite losing their past two games, they won 20 games in June, and now lead the Astros in the AL West by 8.5 games.

They did suffer some bad news this month. Colby Lewis, arguably their 2nd-best pitcher this year, went down with a lat muscle injury. At first, he went on the 15-day DL, but was recently transferred to the 60-day DL, and it sounds as if he could miss the season. Lews was 6-1 this season, with 12 quality starts among his 15 total starts.

They may have some good news coming in July, as Yu Darvish is expected to begin a rehab assignment soon. Darvish has only made 3 starts this year. Derek Holland has missed long stretches of time over the past three years, and he is expected back after the All-Star break.

Pitching: With all those starters out or injured, it shows how much pitching depth the Rangers have. A.J. Griffin (3-0, 2.93 ERA) missed seven weeks and is now back in the rotation. Martin Perez only won 7 games the last two year combined, now will try to win his 7th straight decision tonight.

Texas leads the league in saves with 30, though their Opening Day closer Shawn Tolleson has been replaced by Sam Dyson. Dyson became the closer in the second week of May, and already has collected 16 saves (in 18 opportunities) to go along with the 10 holds he had.

Player to Watch: Cole Hamels. He’ll get the start on Sunday opposite Kyle Gibson. Hamels is (4-0, 0.65 ERA) in his last four starts. He’s next to unhittable when he pitches on the road, going 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA in his 8 starts on the road. His batting average against is .188 on the road, versus .268 in Arlington.

Hitting: Texas is ranked between 5-10th in most batting categories, except for the most important, scoring, which they rank third in the American League. Their lineup is stacked throughout, with .275+ hitters up and down, and five hitters with double digit home runs. Absent among that list is Prince Fielder, who amid all the success going on around him, is having a terrible year.

Fielder is still being rewarded for past performance by being placed in the middle of the potent Rangers offense. That alone has helped him collect 41 RBI, despite a career-low .346 slugging percentage. His batting average recently climbed over .200, but he’s hit only one home run away from the hitter-friendly ballpark in Arlington.

Player to Watch: Ian Desmond has had a career rebirth in Texas. The former All-Star shortstop with the Washington Nationals who developed a case of the yips, has transformed himself into a power-hitting outfielder with the Rangers.

After a slow start, he began heating up in May. It only intensified once June started. His slash for June (.358 AVG / .423 OBP / 1.019 OPS) also yielded 7 home runs and another 19 RBI to give him 14 & 51, respectively, on the season.

Minnesota: Both Duffey and Gibson turned in their best performances of 2016 their last times out. Both will need to duplicate those starts for the Twins to have a chance to win this series. Even Ervin Santana has been on a roll lately, allowing just 3 earned runs total in his past two starts.

With Brian Dozier, Eduardo Nunez, and Kurt Suzuki all heating up, the Twins will have to clean up their defense to keep within striking distance. The Twins made 8 errors in their last 6 games, including 3 in a 5-3 loss to the Yankees. The errors all but gave the game to New York.

Next: Who Will Be the Twins All-Star?

While the Minnesota Twins won their most amount of games in June (10-17), they were last in the American League in run differential for the month (-34). The Cleveland Indians, winners of their last 13, had the best differential in the majors at +68. This weekend’s opponent, the Rangers, were seventh at +30 for June.