The Guardians and Twins play two series over the next two weeks, and their importance can’t be overstated for either team. Minnesota enters tonight with a six-game lead in the AL Central division over Cleveland, which means they can pretty much wrap up the division with two solid series. We’ll preview the opening game of tonight’s series before going over my play for the first five innings.
It’s safe to say the Minnesota Twins caught the Texas Rangers at a good time. The struggling Rangers went into Minnesota and continued their fall in the standings by losing three out of four games in the series, which culminated in a 7-6 extra-innings win for the Twins yesterday. Entering the sixth inning, the Twins were down 5-0, but after a Royce Lewis grand slam, Minnesota was back in the game.
The Twins tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, resulting in the two teams playing 13 innings and ending on a walk-off walk with the bases loaded by Michael A. Taylor. With a series win already under their belt, the Twins continue their homestand tonight with Kenta Maeda on the mound. The right-hander has allowed three earned runs in two straight starts, resulting in two no-decisions, but overall, he is still averaging 1.9 earned runs allowed per game over his last ten starts.
Maeda will do battle with a Guardians lineup that had a big weekend in Toronto. Cleveland and Toronto played in an incredibly low-scoring series a few weeks ago, but this weekend was a different story. With the series on the line yesterday, Cleveland came away with a 10-7 extra-innings win that saw six of their 13 hits go for extra bases. A Kole Calhoun two-RBI double and Ramon Laureano two-run home run in the 11th inning would ultimately give the Guardians the lead and win.
To start their most important series of the season, Cleveland will have Xzavion Curry on the bump. Curry has made eight starts, and his most recent one happened to be his shortest. The righty allowed three earned runs on five hits, which resulted in him being pulled after two innings.
The Twins F5 run-line of (-.5) is currently priced at (-113), and I’ll be backing them for my play. Minnesota holds a nice advantage in terms of starting pitching, and while the Guardians' offense was solid over the weekend, they have yet to prove all season that they can produce consistently.
Following their series win over the Rangers, the Twins offense is now hitting .289 and ranks 5th in OPS, wOBA, and 4th in wRC+ against right-handed pitching at home over the past month. Their pitching matchup tonight, Xzavion Curry, is currently in the 21st percentile in xERA/xwOBA, 13th percentile in xSLG, and 11th percentile in xBA. To make matters worse for the Guardians starter, he is also pitching to a 5.75 xFIP on the road.
Not only does Kenta Maeda have a 3.72 xFIP for the second half of the season, but he is in the 68th percentile in xBA and 66th percentile in xERA/xwOBA. Even after their strong weekend in Toronto, the Guardians still rank 23rd in OPS and 19th in wRC+ in the last 30 days against right-handed pitching. While this game and series will likely be a battle, I think the Twins have the advantage early on both sides of the ball.
Minnesota Twins F5 (-.5)(-113)