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2019 Series Preview #8: Minnesota Twins @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (13-8, 2nd in AL West) return to the Juice Box for three against the Twins (12-7, 1st in AL Central)

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

Recency Bias

Twins

The Twins arrive in Houston after getting off to a start that’s good enough to allow them to grasp on to first place in the early goings. Though it’s not expected to be a very tough division in the Central, the Twins are expected to compete thanks to their offseason moves, including signing 2017 WS Game 2 hero Marwin Gonzalez, and are looking to parlay some lean years into a playoff berth. They’re coming into town riding high off a sweep of the Orioles, though that didn’t exactly work out great for the Yankees the last time they were here.

A big part of the success in recent days has been the Twins’ offense, which is being championed by LF Edwin Rosatrio at the moment. In the past two series he’s exploded with 6 home runs off of the Tigers’ and Orioles’ pitching staffs, though he would go hitless in two of those games. CJ Cron and Nelson Cruz are not too far behind him with each of them also slapping around opposing pitchers with some hot bats.

They’re joined by Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver in bringing the hotness to the Twins’ lineup this week. Of those five, Polanco and Rosario are definitely the most impressive hitters so far in the young season. Though Mitch Garver has also had a meteoric start to the season, he’s a catcher and therefore will not play every day.

After that, Orioles castoff Jonathan Schoop and perennial-waiting-for-him-get-better-candidate Byron Buxton have probably had the best weeks out of the rest of the lineup. Though I do joke about him, Buxton has actually finally started to show signs of being the big player that the Twins had hoped he would evolve into, and is presenting himself as a more dangerous hitter in the lineup. I would also be remiss if I did not mention Willians Astudillo, who is one of the more interesting ballplayers on the Twins roster. He’s had a rough week, but has been one of the better hitters this season for Minnesota with a calling card of only a single walk and a single K in 44 AB’s.

Of course let’s not forget good ol’ Marwin Gonzalez, who has not really had a great start to the season for the Twins with a sub-600 OPS . Speaking of former Astros, Jason Castro seems to be doing more the backup catcher duties these days, though his left-handed bat is a little stronger than Marwin’s so far in 2019.

As for the Twins’ bullpen, it’s got a decent mix of late-inning arms with good starts under their belts and guys who come in when things are going south. Of the higher-leverage arms in the pen we can expect to see, expect Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers in the late-inning roles. Rogers has been eating up a lot of the relief innings, but he has a high average against and WHIP, so his 3-for-3 in save opportunities might be more luck-based. lake Parker is the closest to a set closer that the Twins have, but Minnesota has been running more of a closer-by-committee situation. Though he’s, Parker also was recently ill and yielded closing duties in the recent series so it’s unsure if we’ll see him in the 9th right away.

Trevor May, Adalberto Mejía and Martín Pérez seem to be filling the roles of innings-eaters out of the pen. They haven’t really performed well enough to get the higher leverage roles, especially with all of them sporting pretty hefty ERA’s. Expect to see them coming out of the pen when the Twins are behind and looking for outs one way or another.

The Twins are in a precarious spot atop the Central and will try to use the Astros as a stepping stone before the Indians can figure themselves out and make another run at the division crown.

Astros

The Astros come back to Houston licking their wounds after a 5-3 road trip that seems a lot less successful thanks to the second series loss to the Rangers in the past two weeks. Though they would make a game out of the finale in Arlington and slug out 10 runs, the pitching staff would let the offense down and surrender 11 over the course of that game. Fortunately Seattle has cooled off since their torrid start to the season, allowing the Astros to keep pace even as the Rangers have suddenly come sniffing around at the top of the West.

The week has been pretty kind to the offense though, especially for Springer who exploded with a .316/.480/.895 slash line with 6 walks in five games. This includes 3 homers, which ties Bregman’s total for most homers in the last two series. In fact, since returning from the IL, Bregman has seemed to be finding his groove once more, though I’m sure he’ll tell you that there’s room for improvement.

After that Reddick has actually been a bit of a hero this week, especially after a big game in the finale in Arlington. He’s managed a couple of long balls himself and has limited strikeouts while picking up a stolen base. Brantley rounds out the big sluggers club for the last two series as he continues to prove to be a very smart deal for the Astros.

Things begin to thin out after that, though Gurriel has seen a productive week with a .435 OBP, but not a whole lot of power. Aledmys Diaz has also shown a much better eye at the plate recently, though he’s really settling into the role of bench guy more than regular player. Things sort of fall off there with Altuve being surprisingly unproductive at the plate this week after his ridiculous power surge during the win streak.

The bullpen continues to be a strong spot for the Astros, with only two guys giving up runs during the past two series. One of them, Reymin Guduan, has been sent back to the minors as Framber Valdez was recalled to take over the spot of lefty out of the pen. Valdez also managed to be the only other reliever to give up a run this week.

After that the pen has been on lockdown. No one else has an earned run on their ledger this week, though Devo did allow a couple of inherited runners to score after taking over for Cole during his last clunker of an outing. While the pen hasn’t been pitching a ton of innings thanks to starters going well into games before the last two, it’s definitely nice to have an air of confidence surrounding the pen that was not there at the same time last season.

The Astros will look to collect themselves and start logging some wins in order to stay competitive in the early going against a couple of other AL West teams that have yet to fade.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Jake Odorizzi, RHP (1-2, 4.76 ERA) vs. Brad Peacock, RHP (2-0, 3.94 ERA)

The Twins will send Odorizzi to the mound after a pretty good outing against the Blue Jays. He would hurl 5.2 innings of 1-run ball against the Blue Birds while scattering 6 hits and only walking one. This followed a couple of pretty awful outings, including one against the Phillies where he failed to get out of the first inning after giving up 5 runs. He did have a rather successful start to open the season, but has certainly seen his stock slip since then. His best pitch is a fastball with a crazy-good swing-miss-rate, but his secondary stuff is generally not enough to complement it.

Houston counters with Peacock, who is coming into this start after a rather successful tour of duty in the bullpen. After a shaky start against the A’s in his last game, the Astros were able to stash him in the pen thanks to an abundance of off days. He would pitch 4.1 innings in two games, surrendering two runs but one was unearned. In his 3.1 innings of relief against the Mariners he would strike out 7.

Game 2: Michael Pineda, RHP (2-1, 5.30 ERA) vs. Wade Miley, LHP (1-2, 3.32 ERA)

Game 2 will feature Michael Pineda toeing the slab for the Twins as he makes his way back from TJ surgery. His season started somewhat promising as he started ramping up his pitch count and holding batters to minimal runs. That changed in his last outing, however, as he would get pummeled by the Jays in a 3.2 IP, 6 ER outing that would see him give up two home runs. Home runs have always been Pineda’s kryptonite and, so far, he’s surrendered at least one in 3 of his 4 games.

Miley makes this start after an excellent outing against the A’s that saw him take a hard-luck loss. He would go 6 innings and only surrender 2 runs, but the Astros’ offense couldn’t back his strong outing. This came after a rough start where he would only go 4 against the Mariners, giving up 3. His other two outings have been good to respectable for Miley, who so far is serving in the role of #4 starter admirably.

Game 3: TBD vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (3-0, 3.00 ERA)

José Berríos would normally have this spot in the rotation, but was forced to pitch on Saturday due to a rained out Friday game being pushed to a Saturday doubleheader. Because they would most likely not want to run their ace out there on short rest so early in the season, I expect that this will either be a bullpen game or Minnesota will call up someone from AAA for a spot start.

Meanwhile, the Astros will send out Verlander, who seems to have found a little bit of mojo in his last couple of starts. He’s only given up a single run in each of those games and would go 6 and 7 innings, respectively. He’s also managed at least 6 innings in 4 of his 5 starts this year, continuing to stake a claim to his workhorse status. He’s also striking out batters at a healthy 11.40 K/9 rate though his walks are a little more elevated than usual, but not alarmingly so.

Fun Fact

That’ll play.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, April 22nd @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Twins - TIBN / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Twins - FSNO / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW+

Game 2: Tuesday, April 23rd @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Twins - TIBN, twinsbeisbol,com / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Twins - FSNO / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Wednesday, April 24th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Twins - TIBN / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Twins - FSNO / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (35 votes)
  • 44%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (77 votes)
  • 29%
    Twins Win 2-1
    (51 votes)
  • 5%
    Twins Sweep 3-0
    (9 votes)
172 votes total Vote Now