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Series Preview: Minnesota Will Match Wits Against Rays

Fresh off their first losing week of the 2019 major league baseball season the Minnesota Twins welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to Target Field for the first time in 2019. These two clubs hooked up at the end of May for a four-game series and the Twins took three of four. However, thanks to an 11-run drubbing in game one, Rocco Baldelli’s squad was on the short end of the run differential stick.

Tampa comes to Minnesota having dropped six of their last ten playing against the Athletics, Yankees, and Angels. They’ve been near the top of a strong AL East division for much of the year, and the +85 run differential has their Pythagorean W/L at 48-30.
Image courtesy of © Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
What They Do Well

Like Minnesota the Rays can pitch. The 12.1 fWAR is 1st in baseball and is largely bolstered by Charlie Morton. Blake Snell has taken his lumps at times this season, and he’s coming off his worst outing of 2019 (0.1 IP 2 H 6 ER 4 BB 0 K vs NYY). After losing Tyler Glasnow to injury much of the Rays rotation has been in flux. They employ the opener often and getting to Jose Alvarado or Emilio Pagan on the back end has been key.

Despite not having the same offensive chops as the Twins, Tampa’s lineup is no slouch either. Their 12.9 fWAR is eighth in baseball and fifth in the American League. Owning just the 19th best ISO in baseball (.171) the approach is more of a team effort to score runs rather than living on the long ball or extra-base hit.

What They Do Not Do Well

Looking at a team this solid we’re nitpicking a little when attempting to find significant flaws. The lineup construction here is not one built to come from behind, however. Being in the bottom-third of baseball when hitting the long ball doesn’t provide many quick avenues to get back in a game. They also hover around the midpoint in regards to doubles, so it’s no surprise that their total runs scored check in at just 18th in the sport.

Individuals of Note
While Blake Snell gets the headlines as the reigning AL Cy Young, there’re two guys vastly more important for the Twins to key in on over the next few games. Wednesday starter Charlie Morton has been arguably the best free agent acquisition in baseball and leads the league in ERA. Houston turned him into a strikeout monster and his 1.025 WHIP suggests opportunities won’t come often against him. Morton has allowed more than two ER in just three of his 16 starts, and he’s held opposing lineups scoreless five times this season.

On the offensive side of things, it’s former top prospect Austin Meadows. Acquired in the exchange for Chris Archer, Meadows has a .930 OPS. He has cooled just a bit since returning from the injured list in early May, but the .850 OPS still makes him a dangerous hitter. His 146 OPS+ is one point higher than that of Minnesota’s Jorge Polanco.

Recent History
As noted above, Minnesota and Tampa Bay squared off the last two days of May and first two of June. After a 14-3 drubbing in game one, Minnesota came back to take three in a row from Tampa. Minnesota is dealing with some missing pieces right now, but the hope would be that a return of one or two could have the Twins adding favorably to their 24-13 home record.

Ending Thoughts
Tampa is again a good squad and facing their two best hurlers isn’t going to provide any breaks for the Twins. Kyle Gibson is coming off an ugly outing against the Red Sox and will need to set the tone against Snell. Odorizzi faces his former organization and looked a bit lackluster his most recent time out. Minnesota’s lineup has slowed of late but getting right following the off day and against a good team at home, would be a great thing to see.

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2 Comments

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theBOMisthebomb
Jun 24 2019 07:46 PM
They have had some odd schedule quirks this season. Why were they just on the road for one series and now come home for only a 3 game series?

WIll Buxton be back? He makes a big difference. Not sure I want to watch Astudillo in RF again.


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