It's playoff time in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Twins are kicking off an AL Wild Card series against Toronto with all three games being played at Target Field. There are still many uncertainties, especially with how the last 18 postseason games have gone for the Twins, but this feels like the best foot the team has put forward in any of those attempts.
All of that starts with who will be on the mound in the first two games.
Pablo López is scheduled to take the ball in game one. He was acquired from Miami back in January in what was a huge trade for the Twins because it sent second baseman Luis Arraez to the Marlins. Arraez was coming off an incredible 2022 season with the Twins, which made losing such a beloved player even harder to swallow.
López, though, proved to the Twins that it was a good trade worth making and his performance this year earned him a start in Game 1 of a playoff series. The 27-year-old right-hander pitched 194.0 innings, posting a record of 11-8 with a 3.66 ERA. López recorded 234 strikeouts, which according to MLB.com beat writer Do-Hyoung Park; López has tied Dean Chance (1968) for most strikeouts by any Twins pitcher not named Santana or Blyleven.
López has a five-pitch arsenal which consists of a 4-seam fastball, sweeper, changeup, curveball, and sinker. Having all five-pitches working and commanding the strike zone to get ahead in the count will help López succeed in game one.
The Twins will turn to Sonny Gray in Game 2. Gray has a perspective that not many have, with over a decade of major league experience under his belt. This season he has appeared in 32 games for the Twins with a record of 8-8 and a 2.79 ERA. His final tune-up before the postseason came on Thursday against Oakland, where he worked four innings and allowed one run on three hits.
Just like it will be for López, commanding the zone will be critical for Gray. Effective command of his cutter down and cutting out of the zone may be able to generate swings and misses to help the Twins get out of the first round.
The Twins would prefer to avoid a win or go home Game 3. However, if a third game is necessary Joe Ryan would be in line to take the mound.
Kenta Maeda deserves some consideration, as he has had a better second half of the season than Joe Ryan. In August Ryan struggled with a left groin strain, which landed him on the 15-day injured list. However, Maeda is no stranger to injuries himself. This is his first season back following Tommy John surgery.
Over the last 15 games, Maeda has put up stronger numbers. Maeda went 5-3 with a 3.56 ERA over his last 15 appearances. On the other hand, Ryan went 4-7 with a 5.70 ERA. However, Ryan had a strong last outing against the Angels going six innings and allowed three runs on seven hits and picked up the win. Ryan started his final regular season last Friday night in Colorado.
In a perfect world, though, we would not need to think about game three just who will start game one of the ALDS!