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Around the AL Central (6/16): Cleveland Making a Run


Twins Daily Contributor

Minnesota has made it through the AL East swing that was arguably their toughest stretch of the year. Despite winning two straight series, the Twins are now hotly contested by the Guardians who are clearly the Central’s second-best team. Chicago has had another week of turmoil and the bottom remains unchanged.

 

The Standings:

  • Minnesota 37-28
  • Cleveland 32-27
  • Chicago 30-31
  • Detroit 24-39
  • Kansas City 21-41

Although the Twins are still holding down first place in the AL Central, the lead has dwindled to just two games. Cleveland is among the best teams in baseball right now, and they’re making a hard charge towards the top. Minnesota and Cleveland get together for three games this week and a total of eight times before the end of the month. Some movement is coming when those two match up.

The Stories:
Health has begun to return for Minnesota. Welcoming back Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray while in Seattle was a massive boost to the starting rotation. Jorge Polanco is dealing with a nagging back issue, but both Josh Winder and Kyle Garlick could return to the active roster this week as well. It remains worth watching as to when the Twins will deem young slugger Alex Kirilloff fit for what they hope is a final promotion to the big leagues.

Lance Lynn made his 2022 debut for the White Sox, and it wasn’t good. Being hit around some, the veteran wasn’t sharp but did enough to get Chicago the win. Not long after the White Sox did lose reliever Kyle Crick to right elbow inflammation. He’s been good out of the pen and that would be a disappointing loss should it become long term. Crick’s placement on the injured list came just a day after star closer Liam Hendriks suffered the same fate due to a forearm strain. It’s estimated that Hendriks will be down for three weeks. Tony La Russa’s club did reinforcements with Vince Velasquez rejoining the rotation and Joe Kelly being re-inserted into the bullpen.

When things are going your way, they really go your way. Cleveland was in a tough spot against the Rockies this week and Steven Kwan made nothing short of a miraculous catch to preserve the lead. Rolling over their past ten, it’s been big spots like that where the Guardians have risen to the occasion. Slugger Franmil Reyes appears to be nearing a big league return. He’s currently rehabbing with Triple-A Columbus, but could be activated as early as Monday.

A.J. Hinch isn’t used to losing, but the Detroit Tigers have done a ton of that this season. Expected to take a step forward, the club held a closed door meeting on Wednesday. Javier Baez was brought in as a flashy free agent signing, and a handful of young contributors were expected to step up. So far that hasn’t happened. This meeting followed a 13-0 drubbing by the Chicago White Sox, but at least Roger Clemens’ son Kody Clemens made an appearance on the bump for Detroit.

The Royals have seen Rookie of the Year candidate Bobby Witt Jr. start to turn it on. He’s now got a 108 OPS+ on the season after starting incredibly slow. Andrew Benintendi has cooled some at the plate but his average remains a strong .301. Right now, and most of the season, not much is going right for Kansas City but there are small glimmers of hope for the future.

The Week Ahead:
Before heading home to welcome the Guardians and Rockies, Minnesota takes a quick trip out west to face the Diamondbacks for three games. That series is sandwiched in between off days.

Before getting the bottom-feeding Orioles at home a week from now, Chicago will travel to Houston and then return home for a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Cleveland can’t afford to look ahead as they’ll face the Dodgers in Los Angeles before coming to Minnesota. The goal would be to keep the deficit close in the Central so the series at Target Field has heightened intrigue.

Needing to turn things around, Detroit gets a series against the Rangers at home. They’ll then travel to Boston on Monday, and picking up wins against Texas should be a much more likely opportunity. The Red Sox are currently one of the hottest teams in baseball.

The Royals continue their west coast trip as they spend the weekend across the bay in Oakland before heading to Los Angeles for a series against the Angels.

What are you looking forward to this week? Can the Twins grab some distance ahead of Cleveland?

 


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My biggest hope this week is that we can slow down some of the good vibes that the Guardians have lately. Hopefully the Dodgers do their part and we can take the series in Arizona to set up what should be a great series in Minneapolis. 

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I've been wanting a rotation of healthy Ryan,, Gray, Ober, Scmeltzer, Archer with Winder waiting in the wings.   Feels like they have been keeping it together with duct tape lately so hopefully we can go on a nice run with these guys.    Miranda has hit .318 with a .894 OPS in the last month so hopefully he is here to stay.     Ushela has been good the last month also.    Larnach had a great start to the season before injury but has been pretty bad since he came back.   He seems the most logical to send down to make way for Kiriloff.

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I am cautiously hopeful. During this rough patch of our schedule, with all thehealth issues, especially in the pitching side, we are still ahead by 2 games. And also considering that it was a relatively easy part of Cleveland schedule. Now the schedule for them gets harder and we are starting to get back to health. More crucially, we are getting a lot of games against them. If they cannot beat us head to head, then we can breath more easily. Now, if they win sreies against us, then we are in trouble.

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I still think the White Sox will be right there at the end if their starting pitching doesn't succumb to more long term injuries.  Their bats are starting to come around and they are different team when Anderson is in the lineup.  They have the easiest schedule from here on out.  They need to be able to beat up on the Twins and Guardians as well but they have the talent to do it.

Cleveland is still a wild card IMO.  They are a young team they always have solid pitching so they are always in games.  Their young hitters have been better this year.  Young teams can be pretty variable though.  They can slump hard or go on major winning streaks.  If and it is a big if the young guys stay relatively consistent I think they just wear everyone else down and take the division.

The Twins need better pitching and if they can get their starters back and not have to put Bundy out there every 5 days they have been able to hang in there even with the better teams this year.  The weakness though is still the pen.  The Twins have the weakest pen between the Guardians and White Sox.  I honestly think in the end the pen could lose them the division but we shall see.  The Offense has a lot of options almost too many options and it has lacked consistency.  Can't win games scoring zero runs.  With a healthy Buxton and Arraez and with Correa coming on strong this is a different team and if the young guys add to the tough outs the Twins could start to rival the Sox lineup.

I still like my Twins to win the division but there are so many ups and downs with injuries and close games won or lost that things could go all kinds of different ways.  I just hope the Twins are on top when the dust settles.

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Cleveland had a stretch of easier games, but now other than playing us, they have Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees until July 4th.  Where we will be playing below .500 teams, outside of them until July 12th when we face Brewers, who are not playing well, but that is a long way away.  Just as it normally is, the head to head games will be huge over next stretch to see where we shake out. Hopefully we win at least 5 of the 8 to expand lead and we win if not sweep some of the other series while Cleveland starts losing now that they facing better teams. 

I believe Cleveland is 6-12 against teams currently above .500, and if you include Angels, who were at the time above .500 when Cleveland played them, but went on crazy long losing streak, they are 6-16.  This next stretch will determine if Cleveland is actually a good team, or just better than the bad teams.  

We are 11-13 against teams currently above .500.  Still not great, but much better than 6-12.  I am not saying we are that much better than Cleveland, but we do need to pay attention to who they have been playing, and who they will be.  

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6 minutes ago, rwilfong86 said:

The 8 games against Cleveland in the next 2 weeks could make or break the season. If the Twins lose 6 of 8 they may be done.

Way too much season left to say losing or winning 6 of 8 now will make the difference.  If we lose 6 of 8, even if the rest of the games over that time are the same, hopefully we win more than they do, then we would only be 2 games back, with about half a season to play. Much will happen over that time. 

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How sustainable is Cleveland's run?  That doesn't mean that they can't overtake the Twins for the division, but I doubt they're going to sustain this level of play over the long haul.  

Frankly, I'd rather have someone pushing the Twins than just cake walking their way through the rest of the season.  I always like to have to look over your shoulder a little bit.  Keep the foot on the gas.

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1 hour ago, Dantes929 said:

I've been wanting a rotation of healthy Ryan,, Gray, Ober, Scmeltzer, Archer with Winder waiting in the wings.   Feels like they have been keeping it together with duct tape lately so hopefully we can go on a nice run with these guys.    Miranda has hit .318 with a .894 OPS in the last month so hopefully he is here to stay.     Ushela has been good the last month also.    Larnach had a great start to the season before injury but has been pretty bad since he came back.   He seems the most logical to send down to make way for Kiriloff.

Agreed on the rotation.  With Smeltzer doing well and Archer holding on, Ryan and Gray have a chance to lead this team on a hot streak.

FWIW - Below are Larnach's, Miranda's (SSS), and Urshela's savant profiles.

image.png.5f222ce2f4d46f8c2ffd6e8b27a6dc53.pngimage.png.0dc380b352b38485581b245e5ee286f3.pngimage.png.c1f0288095d00b05122d209776ba5637.png

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18 minutes ago, TwinsAce said:

Agreed on the rotation.  With Smeltzer doing well and Archer holding on, Ryan and Gray have a chance to lead this team on a hot streak.

FWIW - Below are Larnach's, Miranda's (SSS), and Urshela's savant profiles.

image.png.5f222ce2f4d46f8c2ffd6e8b27a6dc53.pngimage.png.0dc380b352b38485581b245e5ee286f3.pngimage.png.c1f0288095d00b05122d209776ba5637.png

I do not understand these graphs.   Are you sure they are recent?   for example Miranda has 121 plate appearances.   Is Larnach upper left and Urshella lower left.?    Does not seem to have any correlation to what BR shows of their last 30 days.  

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1 hour ago, Trov said:

Way too much season left to say losing or winning 6 of 8 now will make the difference.  If we lose 6 of 8, even if the rest of the games over that time are the same, hopefully we win more than they do, then we would only be 2 games back, with about half a season to play. Much will happen over that time. 

Hopefully I'm wrong and the Twins sweep AZ this weekend and then win all 8 against Cleveland and run away with the division by the All Star Break.

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2 hours ago, Dantes929 said:

I do not understand these graphs.   Are you sure they are recent?   for example Miranda has 121 plate appearances.   Is Larnach upper left and Urshella lower left.?    Does not seem to have any correlation to what BR shows of their last 30 days.  

The order was Larnach, Miranda (smaller one), and Urshela. To my knowledge, baseball savant is updated daily.  But agreed, seems odd that Miranda doesn't have more stats filled out.

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/savant-player/jose-miranda-669304?stats=statcast-r-hitting-mlb

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4 hours ago, Trov said:

Way too much season left to say losing or winning 6 of 8 now will make the difference.  If we lose 6 of 8, even if the rest of the games over that time are the same, hopefully we win more than they do, then we would only be 2 games back, with about half a season to play. Much will happen over that time. 

Cleveland has been red hot but gets the Dodgers and hopefully they lose some of those games, people in baseball think the White Sox will get hot and make things interesting, and they've won 3 in a row. Hopefully playing 3 games in Houston will cool them off a bit. The Central will be an interesting race down the stretch. As far as who comes out on top, I think it will ultimately come down to who is healthiest down the stretch and which teams make moves the soonest. The fan part of me wants to believe the Twins will win, but being realistic it will be tough. 

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The Twins are playing at a .623 clip over their past 53 games despite numerous injuries and wildly inconsistent hitting and relief pitching.  That's a pretty durable accomplishment, so keep that reality in mind over the next two weeks no matter what happens during a much shorter game span against a competitive division rival.

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