It’s become common knowledge to baseball fans that the Minnesota Twins struggle in the postseason, but there seems to be a different feeling about this year’s team. Playing host to the Blue Jays, the Twins will be looking to snap an 18-game postseason losing streak, and we’ll preview today’s game before going over why I like the Twins in the first five innings.
Not to discredit anything the Twins have done this season, but with their weak division, their path to the playoffs was nowhere near as intense as the Blue Jays. Playing in a division with two other playoff teams, Toronto had to battle all season to secure a wild card position, and they didn’t make it easy on themselves down the stretch, going 4-6 over their last ten games.
Going into the season, Toronto looked to have an exciting and high-powered lineup, but they finished the year with the 12th-lowest hard-hit percentage in the league. That led to them being ranked 16th in home run percentage and 14th in extra-base hit percentage. While the offense did enough to get them in this position, it’s hard to imagine Toronto would be here without pitchers like Kevin Gausman, who will be making the start today.
The right-hander finished the regular season with a 3.16 ERA and 237 strikeouts in 185 innings. Gausman comes into this matchup with a lot of momentum since he threw 13 scoreless innings to round out the regular season. He will undoubtedly need all the momentum he has when facing the Twins lineup since they were one of the best in baseball this year.
The NL Central division champs put up the 7th best wOBA and SLG during the regular season while also finishing in the top 3% of the league in barrel percentage. Pitching also played a significant factor for them, and getting the ball this afternoon is right-hander Pablo López.
López pitched to a 3.66 ERA in his first season with Minnesota, with 234 punchouts in 194 innings. While he did stumble at the finish line, allowing 11 earned runs over his last three starts, López still averaged just 1.9 earned runs allowed over his last ten outings.
Minnesota’s F5 moneyline is currently priced at (-120), and I’ll be backing them for my play. The Twins franchise and their fan base have long suffered in the postseason, but with their offense's ability to hit right-handed pitching, I think they can come out and scratch some runs across against Gausman.
Over the last 30 days of the MLB season, the Twins offense ranked 5th in OPS and wOBA and 3rd in wRC+ and hard hit percentage against right-handed pitching. While Kevin Gausman was impressive this season, he is still in the 20th percentile in barrel percentage and hard-hit percentage, which could cause some trouble since his 26.4% flyball rate is also above the league average. The powerful Twins lineup had the 6th highest flyball rate against righties since September 1st.
While the Blue Jays' offense ranked 8th in OPS and wRC+ against righties over the last month of the season, they failed to produce strong batted ball numbers, ranking 20th in flyball percentage and 15th in hard-hit percentage in that split. That sets up an excellent matchup for Pablo López since he is in the 94th percentile in xERA, 78th percentile in hard hit percentage, and 66th percentile in groundball percentage.
Minnesota Twins F5 (-120)