Minnesota Twins Travel to Detroit to Face Tigers

Jul 17, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) receives congratulations from first base coach Omar Vizquel (13) after he hits a game winning two run home run in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Detroit won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 17, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) receives congratulations from first base coach Omar Vizquel (13) after he hits a game winning two run home run in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Detroit won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Face Front Office Upheaval as They Hit the Road

In the midst of a lost season, the Minnesota Twins hit the road for seven games in what could be the hottest week of the year.

Even with their improved play, the Twins made more news off the field as they “relieved GM Terry Ryan of his duties.”

Most of the newsprint and internet news cycle will not be about pitching matchups and batting lineups. Instead, it will be about how Minnesota did something so unTwins-like and fired a member of their front office mid-season.

The Minnesota Twins have only had three GM’s in the past 30 seasons, and Terry Ryan has served twice during that time. He’s responsible for building up the farm system and for helping create a template for small market teams to compete.

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But, he’s also responsible for the product on the field that is the 2016 Minnesota Twins.

His recent trades and signings have not done well. The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and now, interim GM Rob Antony will handle the upcoming mid-season deck shuffle.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Twins head to the Motor City to face the second place Tigers.

Detroit will be without Twins-killer J.D. Martinez, who fractured his elbow crashing into the outfield wall on June 16th. They will try their second replacement, Tyler Collins, who was recalled to replace struggling Steven Moya.

Monday Night Game

Ricky Nolasco (4-7, 5.22 ERA) vs Matt Boyd (0-2, 5.77 ERA)

6:10 PM CDT Comerica Park

TV: Fox Sports North

Tuesday Night Game

Tommy Milone (2-2, 5.23 ERA ) vs Anibal Sanchez (5-10, 6.75 ERA)

6:10 PM CDT Comerica Park

Wednesday Day Game

Ervin Santana (3-8, 4.12 ERA) vs Justin Verlander (9-6, 3.91 ERA)

12:10 PM CDT Comerica Park

TV: None

DETROIT: The last time these two teams faced each other, the Tigers featured the top pitcher in baseball, Jordan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman went into that May 16th game with a 5-2 record and sporting a 1.50 ERA. He had shown signs of cracking prior to the Minnesota Twins series, however.

In April, Zimmerman threw 33 innings and allowed only two earned runs all month. In his two starts leading up to the Twins series, he threw back-to-back starts where he allowed three earned runs.

Staked to an 8-0 lead in the first inning, Zimmerman gave the entire lead away, only to have the Tigers fight back to win 10-8. Since that start, Zimmerman has had only one stellar outing, and that came in a 2-1 loss to Kansas City. Shortly thereafter, he went on the disabled list with a strained neck.

Despite the injury setbacks, the Tigers recently won 10-of-13 games to vault back into the AL Central hunt (6.5 games back) and into the thick of the Wild Card race, now sitting just one game out of the second spot.

PITCHING: With Zimmerman hurt, and the rotation up in the air after Justin Verlander, rookie Michael Fulmer has stepped up his game. His 9-2 record and 2.13 ERA have made him the front runner for the AL Rookie of the Year. Luckily, the Twins will miss his spot in the rotation.

The venerable Verlander will pitch the series finale, as he did in May when he struck out 10 Twins batters to complete the series sweep over Minnesota.

His 3.12 career ERA versus the Minnesota Twins is the lowest against any AL Central foe.

Matt Boyd made his first start of the season at the end of May. Since then, he’s started five more and has yet to win a game. On the bubble to being sent down, Boyd threw his best game against Toronto prior to the All-Star Break, allowing just one run in five innings.

Boyd did start once against Minnesota last year after his trade from Toronto. He allowed two earned runs in six innings as the Tigers beat the Twins, 6-4 on September 25th.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Despite his struggles this season, Anibal Sanchez has owned the Twins over his past 10 starts against them. He carries a 4-2 record during that time with a 1.89 ERA and 66 K’s in 62 IP.

He’ll pitch opposite Tommy Milone Tuesday. Milone has won his last two starts, allowing three runs in 11 innings.

HITTING: Detroit’s strength this year has been their bats. In the top 10 in all of baseball in batting average, runs, hits, total bases, and home runs. Their Achilles heel has been strikeouts. Their 776 is nine more than even the Twins so far this season.

The reliable old guard of Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera keep producing. Their half-season numbers of 17+ HR and 50+ RBI while batting near .300 is not surprising.

Getting that same production from 3rd-year third baseman Nick Castellanos has been a wonderful surprise for Detroit, especially now that Martinez is out.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ian Kinsler. Historically, the Minnesota Twins had kept Kinsler below his averages for hitting and slugging. But since his move to Detroit from the Rangers, Kinsler has feasted on Twins pitching.

His 57 hits and 15 doubles are the most against any team over the past three years. His 75 runs so far this year rank second in MLB.

Ricky Nolasco has particular trouble getting Kinsler out. He’s 9-for-23 (.391) against Nolasco in his career.

Detroit’s offense begins with Kinsler. Keeping him off base has to be a priority.

MINNESOTA: Just past the All-Star Break, the season season is in turmoil, with a team in the midst of rebuilding, no ace on the staff and a city already looking forward to the Vikings playing in their new stadium.

The Twins have stunk it up on the field, and the fans have stayed away.

Even with the Twins honoring their Hall of Fame inductees, Torii Hunter and John Gordon, over two separate weekend games, Minnesota only drew an average of 27,404 for the series.

For 2016, they rank 24th (24,566 avg) in MLB attendance. Baseball is a business, and today’s firing reflected that fact.

On the field, Brian Dozier picked up some post All-Star break steam after starting off July a little sluggish. Dozier hit .364 during the Cleveland series with four RBI. Unfortunately for Minnesota, most of his at-bats were with the bases empty.

The Twins will look to get back on track against two struggling Detroit starters, which on paper, seem as if Minnesota has the edge in pitching.

They hope to take the lessons learned against the Texas Rangers, and use patience and power to give their own starters an early lead.

Next: Twins Fire General Manager Terry Ryan

NOTES: Joe Mauer returns to first base tonight as Kennys Vargas will sit. Robbie Grossman will DH once again and bat 6th as Eddie Rosario gets extended playing time in left field. One of the nice problems new GM Antony will have is to deal with five outfielders (plus Miguel Sano) and only three outfield positions.