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Series Preview #45: Minnesota Twins @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (84-53, 1st in AL West) wrap up their home stand with three against the Twins (63-73, 2nd in AL Central)

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Twins

The Twins arrive in Houston after a couple of weeks of spiraling. They haven’t logged back to back wins in over two weeks and are sporting a 4-7 record in their last 4 series. Minnesota is a far cry from the competitor they were supposed to be at the beginning of the season, having already sold off several valuable trade pieces including Astros acquisition Ryan Pressly. They would get pounded pretty hard in their most recent series against Arlington, surrendering 32 runs in three games with 18 coming in a rout this past Sunday.

While the record may be depressed, there are a few players on Minnesota’s roster who have been performing at a high level in the last week. Rookie CF Jake Cave has led the pack this week, crushing 4 HR and 2 2B with a .304/.333/.913 slash line, and is one of two Twins players to appear in every game of the last two series. Old friend Robbie Grossman is smashing a .967 OPS this week, with Eddie Rosario beating him at 1.000, though he has only played in in 3 games. Mitch Garver and Joe Mauer have both been hitting above their season numbers recently, and round out the players with an OPS over .800 in the last two series. Though the other bats have been cold, Logan Forsythe has had a good run for Minnesota since being traded over from the Dodgers. Another trade pick up, catcher Chris Gimenez has only had one hit in his lone game for the Twins, but that was a 2-hit home run.

As for the Twins’ pen, like most other teams it’s currently a mashup of seasoned guys and young players who are getting a look after roster expansions. It looks like the extra arms will come in handy as Minnesota has decided to use the opener strategy first introduced by Tampa Bay this year. They would implement it against the Rangers on Sunday and things would not go exactly according to plan as Gabriel Moya, Zack Littell, and Tyler Duffey would all get rocked for multiple runs and at least one home run each in the first 5 innings. Every one of the 7 pitchers used in that game would give up at least 1 ER. Out of the remaining pitchers who currently have at least 30 innings logged, Taylor Rogers has been the most steady with a 3.16 ERA in 57 innings. Trevor Hildenberger has been the Twins’ biggest workhorse at 64.2 innings out of the pen, though his August has left something to be desired. In a very limited look Trevor May has been good this year, but career numbers say that the jury is still out on him.

The Twins won’t be competing for anything for the rest of the season so a lot of fresh faces will probably be getting looks at the MLB level for the rest of their season.

Astros

The week has not been kind to the Astros as familiar home woes would continue for the offense at MMP. Though Houston has managed to stay one game above .500 it has come at the hands of an inconsistent offense that is either putting up an explosive inning or finding itself listless at the plate for long stretches. They would have a couple of big wins to salvage a split of the four game series against the Angels, and will look to take some of that momentum into a series that should be a much easier challenge.

This week would only see four of the regular batters contribute on a regular basis in a meaningful fashion. Bregman continues to worm his way into the AL MVP discussion, sporting a .500 OBP in his last seven games as well as 3 2B, 3 HR, and 3 BB. White has been almost as good, managing to notch just 1 less double and 3 less hits than Alex, but did have the more heroic RBI this week with his first ever walk off homer against the A’s. Springer has been looking much more comfortable at the plate recently, with a .972 OPS this week and a homer in the finale against the Angels. Kemp has looked solid in a smaller number of AB as both a PH and starting OF. The only other Astro who hasn’t had an awful week is Maldonado, who you can forgive for a .267/.267/.267 slasher so long as he keeps supporting the staff. After that the lineup has been pretty cold with Correa and Altuve’s lack of production being particularly frustrating.

The Astros’ pen has been mostly on-point in this week, especially in the Angels series where only Harris and McHugh would have bad outings. Though Harris would avoid an ER on his ledger for the week, he would allow 3 inherited runners to score, of which 2 were charged Verlander and another to Sipp. McHugh would also give up a couple of runs in an inning of work during a losing effort, but would also strike out the side in the following innings. Peacock would give up a run in 1.2 innings of work whole Devo would give up an unearned run in 2 IP since returning from the DL. Rondón and Smith would both have scoreless pitching lines this week, with Rondón looking particularly impressive on the mound. Osuna would nab a save in his 4 innings of work this week, his 11th on the year.

Houston would only tread water in the standings with a series split against the Angels and will look to gain ground by beating up on a team with more of an eye on the future than the present.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Kyle Gibson, RHP (7-11, 3.79 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (10-10, 3.58 ERA)

Gibson makes this start for Minnesota after a couple of stinkers against Cleveland and the White Sox. He would give up 5 and 7 runs in those games and only manage 5.1 and 4.2 innings, respectively. Before that he had been on a stretch of starts where he would alternate between dominant stuff and MOTR style of pitcher, though his secondary numbers suggest he’s more of the latter. He did face off against Houston in early April back in Minnesota, where he would get shelled for 5 runs in 4.1 innings.

Houston counters with Keuchel, who has been turning in solid starts, excluding a recent 5-run paddling at the hands of Oakland, for two months now. He would come back to handle the A’s well enough in his most recent game, which came after an excellent match against the Angels in California. Keuchel was also on the mound the last time the Astros were in Minnesota, where he would grind out 4 innings in frigid temperatures, giving up 3 runs with some touch luck in that match.

The two starters here have pretty similar numbers so it’s hard to say one or the other is more likely to take it, though Dallas does slightly edge Gibson out in most categories.

Game 2: TBD vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (13-9, 2.78 ERA)

The Twins have already stated their intentions to use another opener for this game, but have not announced who it will be. In their previous try on Sunday they started Gabriel Moya, who is not looking great in 27.2 innings this year. Zack Littell worked 4 innings in that game after Moya left, but has also not represented himself well in limited looks this season. The Twins would simply patch the rest of the game together from there, but it’s unclear if they will follow suit in this game.

Justin makes this start after what has been a shaky August by his standards. Though he’s getting strikeouts, JV has been hurt by the long ball at an excessive rate recently and grinding through starts where Houston has not gotten the length they’re used to from the workhorse. As such he’s seen his ERA rise, but it is now more on par with where it should be according to his peripherals. Verlander would face the Twins in his third start of the year, with 7 strong shutout innings.

Without more evidence that Minnesota has a solid bullpen option you have to say that JV has an edge in this game.

Game 3: Jake Odorizzi, RHP (5-9, 4.41 ERA) vs. Framber Valdez, LHP (2-1, 1.26 ERA)

Odorizzi has had a somewhat pedestrian year where he seems just as likely to have strong game, giving up just a run or less, as he does to lay an egg with 5+ runs. He was more in the middle in his most recent start against Cleveland, going 5.1 innings with 3 runs surrendered. Odorizzi did also face off against Houston back in April, going 6 innings of 1-run ball in that game.

Framber has continued to impress since getting called up to help cover Lance’s spot in the rotation. Though he’s had struggles with command, Valdez has managed to wiggle out of trouble several times and make quality pitches when he’s needed to. In a small sample size he has benefited from good fortune and, of course, will be unable to sustain this level forever, but let’s hope he can ride the wave just a little bit longer.

Hard to throw all my chips in with a pitcher who is still pretty unproven, but Odorizzi hasn’t exactly been stellar this season, so Valdez has a chance so long as he can keep the good times rolling.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, September 3rd @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Twins - WCCO 830, TIBN / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Twins - FSNO / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 2: Tuesday, September 4th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Twins - WCCO 830, TIBN / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Twins - FSNO / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 3: Wednesday, September 5th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Twins - WCCO 830, TIBN / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Twins - FSNO / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (57 votes)
  • 41%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (43 votes)
  • 2%
    Twins Win 2-1
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Twins Sweep 3-0
    (0 votes)
103 votes total Vote Now