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2019 Series Preview #10: Houston Astros @ Minnesota Twins

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The Astros (17-11, 1st in AL West) head to the frozen north for four against the Twins (16-9, 1st in AL Central)

MLB: Houston Astros at Minnesota Twins Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Astros

The Astros set down in Minnesota after salvaging a split against the Indians following 2 straight losses to open the series. The offense would fall somewhat flat in that series, only scoring a max of 4 runs in each of the games in spite of a number of opportunities to bring home more. This followed a pretty explosive series against these same Twins though, so it may have just been some good Indians pitching keeping them off the board.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Correa in particular has been wracking up the hits at the plate in the last couple of series. Slashing .321/.367/.679 this week, Carlos has also popped 3 home runs and a double and is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak. He is striking out at a pretty high rate though, having punched out 11 times in the last week.

After Correa the biggest contributors have been the combined part-time heroics of Tony Kemp and Tyler White. Though they both saw limited action, they each have solid OPS and Kemp got himself a walkoff homer in the 10th innings of game 3 against the Indians. Chirinos and Reddick have both been forces at the plate as well, having a couple of homers and 3 doubles between them in the past 7 games. Reddick in particular is looking much more elite at the plate and seems much more able to take the ball the other way when needed.

Brantley has also continued to impress this season, making that signing look better and better as he has managed to deliver some big hits this week. Meanwhile, Springer had a decent week, cooling off somewhat in the Indians series though not completely. He is currently in the midst of a 12-game on-base streak though, so he’s definitely seeing the ball well. After that it’s been a slow week at that plate for the ‘Stros, with Bregman and Altuve looking a little off in particular the last couple of series.

As for the bullpen there’s really not that much to report. Osuna and Pressly continue to be excellent at shortening games for Houston, so no news there. Will Harris seems to have solidified himself as the mid-inning reliever that Hinch is most comfortable going to for the time being. Meanwhile, Framber Valdez would have himself a decent little outing to close out the Cleveland series, making two good showings since returning from AAA last week

James continues to struggle and Devo continues to work the low leverage situations for the Astros. Rondón would fall a little flat this week as well, giving up runs in back-to-back outing for the first time this season. Even with those stumbles though, the Astros continue to boast one of the stronger bullpens in the league.

Twins

Like the previous series against the Astros the Twins will start this series after a sweep of lowly Orioles, claiming all 6 games against Baltimore this season. Of course those games were on the opposite sides of a series loss to Houston, who took 2 out of 3 at the beginning of last week. Their success in Baltimore was punctuated by 12 home runs in just three games, with 10 of them coming in the first two games of that series.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s big hero for the Twins has definitely been Max Kepler, who exploded for four home runs in that Baltimore series while slashing a studly .364/.400/.955 during the road trip. Though he’s had the best week of any of the Twins’ regulars, Jason Castro and Willians Astudillo have both had good weeks, but that comes at a combined 16 at bats, with Castro taking the lion’s share.

Offseason acquisition Nelson Cruz also had himself a pretty good week, mashing two homers in one of the games of the Orioles. He’s joined by Jorge Polanco, who you may remember picking on the Astros to the tune of a 4-for-5 game with a homer and a double in the last series. Polanco has also been one of the better players for Minnesota this season, with a .331/.390/.632 slash line for 2019.

Homers aside, things don’t really get too much better on the week for the Twins, who only have three players with an OBP above .300 and more than 10 plate appearances. However, on the year the Twins actually lead the league with a team OPS of .846, .018 points ahead of the second place Astros. They remain in the upper third of most of the league in offensive stats and have used that to take a 2 game lead on the Central.

As for Minnesota’s bullpen, not much has changed so far as hierarchy since we saw them last week. Blake Parker is getting the majority of save chances for the Twins, going on a perfect 5-for-5 so far this year. If not Parker for saves then Taylor Rogers, who has three of his own and owns a pretty shiny 2.13 ERA in a team-leading 12.2 innings this season, though he does allow more base runners than you would like. Hildenberger is also a high-leverage option for the Twins, and has been pretty impressive this year himself.

Ryne Harper and Trevor May have seen a good amount of action so far this year and have limited damage in their outings, though there have been a few bad appearances between the two of them. You can also expect to see Adalberto Mejía at some point as he is a regular out of the pen, but hosts a pretty hefty ERA thanks to a disaster of an outing in Toronto earlier this season.

In something of a reverse from the offense, the Twins’ bullpen ranks closer to the bottom half of the league in most categories. Like the Astros, their pen hasn’t been used as much as some other teams this season with only 83.1 IP under their belts to Houston’s 82.2. However, they do sport an ERA that’s nearly 1.50 runs higher.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Justin Verlander, RHP (4-0, 2.61 ERA) vs. Jake Odorizzi, RHP (2-2, 4.37 ERA)

Verlander strolls into this start after three straight games where he’s only given up a single run. In that time he’s gone 6, 7, then 8 inning and would strike out 27 in those frames. So while he may have looked a little shaky a few starts ago, Verlander has definitely turned it up a notch in his recent outings. This will be his second straight start against the Twins, going a dominant 8 innings of one-run ball the first time out.

Odorizzi will come to the mound for the Twins, and is also re-matching the Astros in this game. He’s had a bit of an up and down season with a couple of pretty good starts under his belt and a couple of pretty awful ones. He did manage to get to 5.2 innings before being lifted in his last game against the ‘Stros, but was able to scatter 8 hits and keep the damage to only 2 runs. His peripheral numbers seem to suggest that he’s exactly what his stats say he is so far in 2019.

Game 2: Gerrit Cole, RHP (1-4, 4.71 ERA) vs. Michael Pineda, RHP (2-1, 5.63 ERA)

Cole had himself a nice little bounce back outing in his last game to open the series against Cleveland. After getting trounced by the Rangers he would fire off 7 innings of 2-run ball against the tribe with 2 solo home runs his biggest mistakes of the evening. He did continue his strikeout barrage though, logging his third double-digit K game of the season to sit at a pretty lofty 13.38 K/9 for 2019.

Michael Pineda will make the start for the Twins after a somewhat pedestrian beginning to the season. He’s given up at least 3 runs in 3 of his five starts this season and has only logged 6 innings or more once. Of course, he is making his way back from TJ surgery, but has certainly not shown much dominance this season. His last game was against the Astros and he would surrender 4 runs in 5.1 innings during that outing. He is suffering from an unusually high .343 BABIP, so there does seem to be some bad luck involved.

Game 3: Collin McHugh, RHP (3-2, 4.78 ERA) vs. Martín Pérez, LHP (3-0, 4.44 ERA)

Like Cole, McHugh is coming into this start after a pretty solid performance against Cleveland in order to bounce back from a putrid one at the hands of the Rangers where he would give up 9 earned runs. Another parellel between him and Cole is that he was sunk mostly by solo homers in his last game, giving up three in that outing while going 5.2 IP and striking out 9. McHugh has definitely seen a bit of a rise in his K/9 rate, which is now at a healthy 10.41 compared to a lifetime 8.62.

Pérez will start for Minnesota after a couple of back-to-back outings against the Orioles. He would go 6 in both of those but gave up 4 runs in one while only 1 in the other. Originally out of the pen to start the season, Pérez has settled into the rotation nicely and is performing at a better rate then he was as a reliever. Like Pineda his BABIP is riding a little high on the season at .350, but his xFIP of 4.82 shows that his ERA isn’t too far off of what you can expect.

Game 4: Brad Peacock, RHP (2-1, 3.67 ERA) vs. José Berríos, (4-1. 2.97 ERA)

Peacock starts for the Astros after one of his better starts of the season where he would twirl 6 innings of 1-run ball while striking out 7. Before that he would make a much less dominant looking start against these same Twins, where he would only go 5 innings and gave up 3 runs before getting pulling. This will mark Peacock’s third start since returning to the rotation out of pen, where he was temporarily stashed earlier in the season due to scheduling.

Minnesota counters with the young José Berríos, who is quickly making a name for himself in the Twins’ rotation. He’s only had one start this year that wasn’t a quality start, and still managed to go 6 innings in that one while giving up 4 runs. Berríos will need to continue having success if he wants to show he’s for real, as he has struggled with consistency over the last few seasons.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, April 29th @ 6:40 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Twins - TIBN
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Twins - FSNO

Game 2: Tuesday, April 30th @ 6:40 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Twins - TIBN, twinsbeisbol.com
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Twins - FSNO

Game 3: Wednesday, May 1st @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Twins - TIBN
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / ESPN

Game 4: Thursday, May 2nd @ 12:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Twins - TIBN
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Twins - FSNO / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (24 votes)
  • 44%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (76 votes)
  • 32%
    Series Split 2-2
    (56 votes)
  • 6%
    Twins Win 3-1
    (11 votes)
  • 2%
    Twins Sweep 4-0
    (5 votes)
172 votes total Vote Now