The Show Must Go On: ALDS Preview - Twins vs. Rays
THE PLAYOFF PICTURE
Our Twins (95-68) won the Central with a 10th-inning walk-off win against Cleveland (94-69) in Game 163. That means the Indians will host Boston (91-72) in the Wild Card Round. The winner of that contest will go on to face the No. 1 seed Angels (103-59). Meanwhile, our Twins hold home-field advantage against the Tampa Bay Rays (92-71), who themselves won the East by edging the Red Sox in a Game 163 tiebreaker. All kinds of dramatics in the American League here in 2020.
Elsewhere, things have played out in fairly expected fashion. Nats (96-66) won the East, Cubs (92-70) won the Central, Dodgers (105-57) led all of baseball in victories. The Braves (90-72) and Rockies (94-68) will battle in the NL WC Game.
ALDS SERIES OVERVIEW
So, our Twins end up facing the very same team we pulled off a blockbuster trade with at the deadline. As it turns out, that splashy transaction – sending Eddie Rosario and Jordan Balazovic to Tampa in exchange for Blake Snell – is the rare of example of an in-season deal between two contenders, and it worked out swell for both sides. Snell led the Twins to a victory over Cleveland in Game 163, while Rosario is Tampa's cleanup hitter and Balazovic is lined up to start Game 2 of the ALDS as a 22-year-old rookie (!).
The Twins scored more runs than Tampa Bay (799 to 726) but the Rays allowed fewer (611 to 669). In fact, no American League team gave up fewer runs than Tampa, which finished first in the AL in ERA (3.61) ahead of second-place Minnesota (3.76). Both teams feature strong, deep rotations backed by high-caliber bullpens. Rays closer Nick Anderson ranked third in the AL in saves (46); Twins closer Taylor Rogers ranked seventh (43).
Even after sending Rosario to Tampa, the Twins appear to have a clear offensive advantage over the Rays. We'll see if it shows through.
- Luis Arraez, 2B (.331/.419/.483, 14 HR, 78 RBI)
- Jorge Polanco, SS (.270/.352/.437, 18 HR, 64 RBI)
- Mitch Garver, C (.266/.362/.444, 20 HR, 46 RBI)
- Miguel Sano, 1B (.254/.359/.485, 36 HR, 100 RBI)
- Josh Donaldson, 3B (.259/.369/.475, 35 HR, 98 RBI)
- Max Kepler, RF (.285/.379/.464, 21 HR, 82 RBI)
- Nelson Cruz, DH (.267/.342/.473, 28 HR, 99 RBI)
- Marwin Gonzalez, LF (.281/.342/.480, 17 HR, 48 RBI)
- Byron Buxton, CF (.222/.294/.327, 6 HR, 26 RBI)
- Kevin Kiermaier, CF (.274/.351/.474, 23 HR, 68 RBI)
- Jose Martinez, RF (.281/.344/.429, 20 HR, 72 RBI)
- Rafael Devers, 3B (.259/.341/.437, 29 HR, 77 RBI)
- Eddie Rosario, LF (.280..331/.489, 27 HR, 94 RBI)
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B (.293/.361/.546, 34 HR, 87 RBI)
- Willy Adames, SS (.289/.368/.457, 9 HR, 40 RBI)
- Brandon Lowe, 2B (.270/.338/.526, 33 HR, 102 RBI)
- Hunter Renfroe, DH (.226/.302/.427,18 HR, 50 RBI)
- Mike Zunino, C (.195/.281/.309, 12 HR, 35 RBI)
Game 1: Rays @ Twins
Charlie Morton, RHP (14-8, 3.15) vs. Jose Berrios, RHP (20-5, 2.96)
Morton turned in a fine season that was very much in line with his norm. He's excellent. Berrios also had a phenomenal season, and hasn't been tagged with a loss since May. But that's almost starting to feel ominous at this point, isn't it? Liriano was of a similar mold in 2010. Santana in 2006, as well. Oh man, I'm feeling nauseous.
Game 2: Rays @ Twins
Jordan Balazovic, RHP (4-6, 4.73) vs. Kenta Maeda, RHP (18-8, 3.39)
Maeda was an All-Star. He had 12 wins at the break. He went 5-0 record with a 2.11 ERA in September. He had an incredible first season with the Twins and would be worthy of the ace billing in many rotations not inhabited by Berrios. Maeda will be going against the top prospect we traded away at the deadline – a 22-year-old whose numbers aren't all that great, but whose upside on any given day is immense. It would only make sense for us to get buried in this game, wouldn't it?
Game 3: Twins @ Rays
Blake Snell, LHP (12-10, 3.75) vs. Ryan Yarbrough, LHP (13-8, 3.78)
This feels like a good time to point out that Tampa does not have Yonny Chirinos lined up to start any of its first three ALDS games. And here's why that's strange: he went 19-7 with a 2.77 ERA in 205 innings this year. He is in the Cy Young conversation. And yet for Game 2 they're running out a rookie and for Game 3, the Rays have penciled in Yarbrough, a solid yet ordinary southpaw.
Then again, I've learned better than to ever doubt this sophisticated organization's ways. Did the Rays trade Snell to us knowing that they'd end up facing him in a playoff matchup at the Trop? Does Yarbrough have some unknown advantage against our lineup? Is this all part of their strategy?
Game 4 (if necessary): Twins @ Rays
Jake Odorizzi, RHP or Alex Wood, LHP vs. Yonny Chirinos, RHP (19-7, 2.77)
Here Chirinos is finally scheduled to get his first postseason nod. And here the Rays figure to have their first clear pitching matchup advantage ... if they haven't swept us already. (Sorry, sorry! Force of habit.) On our end, it's an open question which pitcher should get the nod, because both Odorizzi and Wood have good cases. We'll discuss that shortly.
Game 5 (if necessary): Rays @ Twins
Charlie Morton, RHP (14-8, 3.15) vs. Jose Berrios, RHP (20-5, 2.96)
Presumably if we get to a Game 5, the rotations will flip because both Game 1 starters will be back at full rest. But, many variables in play.
DECISION TIME: PLANNING FOR GAME 4
I feel like we're pretty well set for the first three games. Our lineup is locked in, and Berrios, Maeda and Snell are clearly our three best starters. Game 4 is a bit of a tough call, though. Odorizzi's been very solid throughout the season, totaling 192 innings with a 3.65 ERA and 15-10 record.
Meanwhile, Wood – a fellow deadline addition along with Snell – has the rotation's lowest ERA (2.77). In fact that mark tied with Tampa Bay's Chirinos for third-best in the AL in the regular season (behind Hyun-Jin Ryu and Mike Minor).
Whichever starter we opt for, I'll have the other one ready to step in at early signs of trouble. In Wood's favor, the Rays have a pretty lefty-heavy lineup, with Rosario, Kiermaier, Devers, Choi, and Lowe all swinging from the left side.
There is a third option: We could start Berrios on short rest in Game 4. This would give us the ability to start Maeda on full rest in Game 5.
I'll follow your cue. Vote your preference in the comments section.
Part 1: We Can Build This Thing Together (0-0)
Part 2: 10 Games In, 6 Games Back (4-6)
Part 3: Roaring Back (11-9)
Part 4: Over the Hill (17-13)
Part 5: Checking In at the Quarter Point (23-17)
Part 6: Rising Power (30-20)
Part 7: First Place! (Barely) (34-26)
Part 8: Drafting and Dropping (38-32)
Part 9: Cruz Control (45-35)
Part 10: Pulling Ahead (52-38)
Part 11: Bashing into the All-Star Break (58-40)
Part 12: Deadline Decisions (62-46)
Part 13: Inauspicious Debuts (66-52)
Part 14: Treading Water as the Clock Ticks (71-57)
Part 15: Stretch Race & September Call-Ups (78-59)
Part 16: Dancing for the Division (84-63)
Part 17: Down to the Wire (90-66)
Part 18: Game 163 (94-68)
Part 19: Twins Walk Off Game 163 (95-68)
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