The Twins take on the Royal at Target Field today. The winner of today's game will take over first place in the American League Central. The Twins and Royals have split the first six games of their season series. The Royals started the season on a tear. They have been at or near the top of the division since the season started. The Twins started slow in April, but caught fire in May. They currently hold a one-game lead in the Central.
Here's a look at the prospects for today's game: Who's Hot/Who's Not--(HOT) Royals bullpen. They've been the #1 strength of the team this year and last year. If the Royals get a lead in the seventh, the game is basically over. Royals are #1 in run suppression in the American League. They have a staff of hard throwers and perhaps the best defense in baseball. (NOT) Offense. No one is going really well and several regulars are struggling (Cain, Rios, Perez, Morales). The Royals now rank just behind the Twins in runs scored per game next to last in homers.(HOT) Brian Dozier leads the league in runs scored, extra base hits and doubles, leads second sackers in homers. Dozier has never hit .250 in a season and currently is hitting .267. Twins starters are a net 24-15 with a 3.89 ERA, a huge improvement from the last three years. (NOT) Most of the lineup is struggling. Starting shortstop Danny Santana was sent to AAA on Sunday.
Starters: Phil Hughes vs. Jason Vargas. Hugheshasn't been the pitcher he was in 2014. He's been okay in most starts, but has allowed too many home runs. His strikeouts and velocity are down. This will be Hughes first start this year against the Royals. Vargas was hit pretty hard by the Twins in two early starts, getting a loss and a no-decision. He spent time on the Disabled List and so far hasn't gone longer than six innings in any game.
The Royals were eight games over .500 in April, but have played .500 ball since. This is a pretty big series for early June. A series win would be nice for Minnesota, but there is a lot of season left. If either team sweeps, it will be a big boost. Short of that, the battle will go on. I like the Twins to win the opener with some power and solid pitching from Hughes.