The Twins are in town for a three-game series.
The Mariners couldn’t keep their hot streak going against the Red Sox, failing to win their fifth series in a row. Each game was tightly contested which was a nice turnaround after the crushing sweep in Boston, but the end result was still two losses and a eked-out walk-off win. This stretch of improved play has been encouraging, and the collapse of the Angels has opened up a path to the final Wild Card spot if the Mariners can continue playing well through the summer. They’ll need to figure out a way to convert these close games into wins if they really want to be competitive, something they did all season long last year.
It feels like years ago that the Mariners began their season in Minnesota, all the way back in April. Since that split four game series, the Twins have gone on to win 33 more games, and propel themselves to the top of the AL Central. They’ve been able to ride career years from Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, and Carlos Correa to great success, despite some fairly mediocre pitching from the likes of Chris Archer and Bailey Ober. They’ve been back and forth recently, going 5-6 in the month of June. They were poised to finish off a sweep of the Rays yesterday, but got blown up 6-0.
As mentioned before, Arraez, Buxton, and Correa are all having excellent years at the plate, each with a wRC+ of at least 140. Arraez is leading MLB in both batting average and OBP, and is just two days removed from hitting a monster go-ahead grand slam that landed approximately 300 miles from Target Field. It seems that, unfortunately for the Mariners, the Twins are good, and this lineup is the real deal. Those looking for a Mariners shaped silver lining can take heed in the fact that the Twins don’t walk quite as much as the Mariners, and that they chase outside the zone slightly more. They make more contact, though.
It’s been a while since Chris Archer has shown the kind of productivity that made him one of the most exciting young pitchers in the game nearly a decade ago. Surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome wiped out all of his 2020 season and injuries to his forearm and hip meant that he threw just 19.1 innings last year. He’s already doubled his number of innings thrown this season and has looked as good as he has in years. The Twins are still treating him carefully with his recent injury history; he’s reached five innings pitched for the first time this season in his last two starts, though he hasn’t cracked 80 pitches in a single start yet. In his last start, his fastball reached the highest velocity (97 mph) since 2019 before his string of injuries.
From a previous series preview:
Joe Ryan’s repertoire is the perfect example of why evaluating pitches simply via their raw characteristics — velocity, movement, spin rate — doesn’t tell the whole story. He doesn’t have overpowering velocity (though it was up by a couple of ticks this spring), and his movement profile on his fastball isn’t great. Despite the unimpressive raw stuff, Ryan has run gaudy strikeout totals at every stop throughout the minors; he compiled a 36.7% career strikeout rate in the minors and posted 30% rate in his first taste of the majors last year. The reason he’s been so successful is a fastball that is thrown at an extremely flat approach angle. That allows the pitch to surpass its raw physical characteristics and provides a fantastic foundation for the rest of his arsenal. He also possesses an excellent slider, a pretty good curveball, and excellent command of all four pitches in his repertoire.
Joe Ryan caught a case of COVID and has been sidelined since May 21. He’ll be making his first start off the IL either Tuesday or Wednesday.
From a previous series preview:
Pitching was a clear need for the Twins this offseason and their biggest acquisition to fill that gap was Sonny Gray. A member of the Reds for the last three seasons, he put up a 3.49 ERA backed by a 3.57 FIP while in Cincinnati. A few minor injuries caused him to miss a few starts last year and could have contributed to his ERA jumping up over four. His signature pitch is his big curveball, but his repertoire is deep and varied. Prior to his time in the Queen City, his strikeout rate sat around 21%, good but not great for a starter. It’s jumped up to 28.5% over the last three years and that mostly coincides with his decision to start using his sinker as his primary fastball.
Sonny Gray has put together a solid season in Minnesota despite missing time with two separate injuries. He missed most of April with a hamstring strain and has been sidelined for all of June with a pectoral strain. It’s possible he’ll be activated from the IL to make a start on Wednesday but could slip to later in the week depending on his recovery process.
The Big Picture:
The Rangers surpassed the Angels in the AL West standings after winning two straight games in extra innings in Chicago against the hapless White Sox. They’ll return home for a short three-game homestand against the Astros. After losing their series against the Mariners at home, Houston continued to stumble against the Marlins over the weekend. After breaking their 14-game losing streak on Thursday, the Angels lost their weekend series against the Mets. Mike Trout did return from a minor injury to blast two home runs on Saturday, but that was really the only bright spot in a week filled with bad vibes. The Guardians won three of four from the A’s over the weekend to keep up with the Red Sox in the Wild Card standings.