It’s bitterly cold and overcast as the Minnesota Twins prepare to try salvage one game of what’s now a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians at Target Field. It’s right-hander Ervin Santana going for the Twins against Trevor Bauer for the Indians. More on that in a bit.
After Wednesday’s rainout, the Twins have pushed back Adalberto Mejia to this weekend against the Tigers, while the Indians will stay on track with their rotation. That means the Twins will miss out on facing Corey Kluber, the 2014 AL Cy Young winner who is off to a tough start (6.38 ERA) but can turn it on at any point, including against an offense that is going through a bit of spring doldrums right now. In that case, advantage Twins.
#mntwins rotation vs DET:
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) April 19, 2017
The Twins are slated to face Justin Verlander, Matt Boyd and Michael Fulmer this weekend at Target Field.
Weather.com pegs the game-time temp for about 42 degrees with 90 percent humidity but just a 15 percent chance for rain — or whatever form precipitation falls at that temperature. Instead, fans will contend with bone-chilling cold as they watch Santana attempt to stretch his season-opening hot stretch to four games.
Here’s how the Twins line up today:
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 20, 2017
Here’s how the Indians will counter:
Time to get back to business.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) April 20, 2017
Santana is coming off a masterful one-hit performance against the White Sox last time out. His game score of 92 — per Baseball Reference — is one of the 15 best in Twins history. Santana faced two batters over the minimum, as he allowed a single to Omar Narvaez and a walk to Avisail Garcia. According to PITCHf/x (housed on Fangraphs), Santana is averaging 92.4 mph with his fastball and throwing lots of sliders (38.4 percent). He’s also throwing more changeups (13.2 percent) than he has at any time in his Twins tenure. It’s not hard to see why; Santana is getting swinging strikes on the slider 20.4 percent of the time and on the changeup 10.8 percent of the time.
Opposing batters have hit just .071/.133/.114 against Santana so far this season. No other starting pitcher is allowing a batting average lower than .113 (Seattle’s James Paxton). Santana also has thrown 18 consecutive scoreless innings, second to Paxton’s 21 in MLB right now.
— MLB Quality of Pitch (@qopbaseball) April 20, 2017
Bauer is off to a strange start through two outings, as he’s fanning more than a batter per inning (11 K/9) and walking no one (1.7 BB/9), but has been bombed to the tune of an 8.44 ERA, 2.5 home runs per nine innings and an opponents’ slash line of .326/.354/.609. Lefties have been particularly tough on Bauer (1.040 OPS), so the lefty-heavy Twins lineup should have a good chance to break out of its slump this time around.
Bauer’s pitch mix is split between a four-seam fastball (25.4 percent), two-seamer (29.1 percent), cutter (18.3 percent) as well as a curve (16 percent) and change (11.3 percent) so far this season, via PITCHf/x. The cutter, curve and change all have respectable whiff rates or better this season, with the cutter and change over 20 percent.
Alex Meyer will make a spot start for the Angels on Friday according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. His start will allow everyone in the existing rotation an extra day rather than taking an actual spot in the rotation. Meyer has not appeared in an MLB game this year, and has a 4.80 ERA through three starts (15 innings) with an 18-5 K/BB ratio at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Scott Diamond made his first start for the SK Wyverns of the KBO on Wednesday. Details are a bit hazy on how he pitched, as Baseball Reference lists only one start, but 12 innings pitched for the lefty, which seems unlikely. It also says Diamond allowed one earned run on two hits with two strikeouts and two walks. The MyKBO site says Diamond threw four innings (2.25 ERA). Former Detroit Tigers utility player Danny Worth has appeared in three games for the Wyverns this year.
Other KBO pitchers with Twins ties have done the following this season:
- Pat Dean – 1.25 ERA, 21.2 IP
- Jeff Manship – 2.13 ERA, 25.1 IP
- Eric Hacker – 2.16 ERA, 16.2 IP
- Brooks Raley – 3.16 ERA, 25.2 IP
Notes & Quotes
- The Twins have posted a 3.33 ERA on this homestand — 2.43 for starters, 4.96 for relievers — but are just 1-4 due to an offense averaging just 2.6 runs per game, per the game notes. Hitting .184 (7-for-38) with runners in scoring position has surely contributed.
- Also according to the game notes, Miguel Sano is one of four players with double-digit walks, runs and RBI so far this season. The others are Seattle’s Mitch Haniger, New York’s Yoenis Cespedes and Washington’s Bryce Harper.
- Wednesday’s rainout was the 49th game affected by weather as we work through the eighth season in Target Field history. There have been 33 delays and 16 postponements.
- Manager Paul Molitor on Santana’s start: “He’s shown over here and really career-wise — second half of last year in particular — a consistency in how he can locate a baseball. To add to that, he’s got deception. The slider seems to be as good as it has ever been right now in terms of consistency and being able to get down away from righties and in to lefties. But for me, and I could be wrong but I watch him pitch, and I say he makes a hitter aware of his ability to pitch in. I think that gives him options as he has to face guys three or four times through the lineup, and find ways to stay a step ahead in terms of the mental and the physical. But his ability to pitch in changes they dynamic of how guys can approach him.”
- Molitor on going with Ervin instead of pushing back: “I don’t have exact information. I think in general when I’ve had cancellations over the past couple years, I’ve moved everybody back a day too. I think over the year, it pays off if you take advantage of the cancellations and give guys extra days. This one felt a little different. It’s not all about how Ervin is throwing the ball. A young guy in Mejia who hasn’t…I mean I’m sure he’s pitched in some cool weather and things but, it just felt like a time to keep Ervin on track. We’d love to win a game in the series here to finish up — not that Mejia couldn’t do that. It’s nice when you can bump guys and get them an extra day, but this was a time where it felt like I wanted to keep Ervin on track.”
- Molitor on Robbie Grossman’s big start: “I think he sees the opportunity here with the way we came out of camp and getting consistent at-bats. I know he’d love to play more defense. I think he’s at a high end of his game right now in terms of just not swinging at a lot of balls. He keeps you guessing because he’s aggressive on the first pitch once in awhile. He keeps you from just trying to get ahead of him. I think he probably takes a bit of an exception to people who think he’s a much better hitter against lefties than righties. Last year the numbers kind of supported that, but I think he feels in the long haul that he’s been good against both sides. I think he’s motivated by that a little bit. He’s just one of those guys who can recognize pitches very well, and doesn’t seem to get in too much of a hurry with two strikes.”
- Molitor on Buxton: “There’s been a couple little baby step kind of things I noticed the other day. I think he feels that every day is going to be a day that he’s going to go out there and barrel up a couple balls and take his chances. Even the ball hit up the middle the other day he didn’t hit very well. The bad part was that he expanded in — off the plate — and the good was that I actually saw him try to stay inside the ball instead of hook it. I think I’ll try to get him to stay more middle of the field right now than have that overly quick reaction to every pitch that he sees, because when he hits them good he hits them foul. I think he’s just showing a bit of an ability to breathe through his at-bats, and recognize and try to get in some hitter’s counts instead of hitting 0-2 all the time.”
- Molitor on how long they can go with Buxton: “Well the longer you play, the more you have a resume and the more guys will let you fight through these things for a longer period. We’re not at that point, so I don’t want to waste too much time talking about that, but obviously it’s not an unexpected question because people are going to wonder. People are already debating at what point does a guy being a good defensive player count enough to accept minimal offense? Go around the league right now and look at box scores, and see how many guys are under .150 and are pretty good players. There’s quite a few. It’s just the whole idea that in 40-50 at-bats, some guys aren’t going to get off to good starts. In his case it’s exaggerated because of who he is and expectations we have and the finish he had last year.