Tonight the Yankees start a three-game series in the North Star state against the AL Central-leading Twins. It’s an intriguing matchup on paper as the Twins are an interesting team in several regards.
For starters, they’ve taken a hit from the injury bug as two of their better position players (Carlos Correa and Miguel Sanó) and two of their best pitchers (Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray – yes, that Sonny Gray) are currently on the IL. That said, with the help of some surprise performances from the likes of corner outfielder Trevor Larnach who leads the team in WAR, and Luis Arreaz who leads MLB in batting average and OBP, they’ve won 28 of their last 44 games.
The Twins bats are a good example of how context needs to be applied when looking at statistics. They’re 14th in runs per game in MLB, but make no mistake they can hit – they just happen to play in one of the hardest parks in the league in which to score. Their team-wide 114 OPS+ (park-adjusted) is the third-best in baseball, and even without the injured players, the Twins have eight hitters with at least 68 PA and an OPS+ of 115 or better.
On the run prevention side, the Twins have allowed the sixth-fewest runs per game, but that also gets a little help from their home park. Regardless, the Yankees have a big advantage in the pitching matchup each night in this series: Tonight they’ll see Cole Sands who has one big league start on his resume – a start in which he was knocked around by Detroit, the worst hitting team in baseball. Then on Wednesday, the Yanks will face Chris Archer and his 4.94 FIP, followed by Dylan Bundy and his 4.61 FIP on Thursday.
That said, there are two interesting stories in their bullpen to watch. Jharel Cotton signed with Minnesota in the offseason, and if you aren’t aware of Cotton’s story I wrote about him last season – he’s an easy kid to root for. He’s coming off two good relief outings last weekend against Toronto in which he threw 3 innings, allowing no runs, hits, or walks while striking out three.
Secondly, if you haven’t seen Twins reliever Jhoan Durán yet, buckle up. The 24-year-old rookie averages 100.7 mph on his fastball and is above the 90th percentile in MLB in both walk and strikeout rates. Even when batters make contact they haven’t been able to do too much as Durán is also above the 90th percentile league-wide in xBA and xSLG. If you’re a batter, it’s very unlikely he’s going to walk you, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to whiff, and if you do make contact, it won’t be hit too hard. Good luck.
Of course, we can’t finish up without checking in on our old friends Gio Urshela and Gary Sánchez. They both have had similar seasons in the respect they got off to slow starts but have been hitting very well for a month now. Since May 8th, Gio has posted a .294/.340/.482 slash line with a 137 wRC+, while Gary has a 123 wRC+ and 6 long balls over the same span.
Tonight: Jameson Taillon vs. Cole Sands
Wednesday: Nestor Cortes vs. Chris Archer
Thursday: Gerrit Cole vs. Dylan Bundy
How to watch:
You can watch all three games on the YES Network and stream them on MLB.tv. The radio broadcasts will all be on WFAN 101.9/660, and as always, you can follow along with me @mybaseballpage1 on Twitter and the “My Facebook Page” on Facebook.
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