8:10 PM EST, ESPN+ – Line: Twins -106, Over/Under: 10
A potential World Series preview is on tap tonight in the twin cities, as the Minnesota Twins play host to the Atlanta Braves in the first chapter of a three-game Interleague Series from Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Of course, these two franchises met back in the 1991 World Series, a bonafide classic that went the distance, lasting seven games, with the Twins earning their third and most recent Championship. Anyways, after an putting together an onslaught throughout the month of June, the Braves (66-46, 1st in NL East) have cooled down a bit since the All-Star Break, going 12-9 since the Midsummer Classic, though they’ve nonetheless managed to build upon their considerable lead in the NL East, which is up to seven games with two months left before the Playoffs. Speaking of the Postseason, Atlanta was very active at the Trade Deadline, bolstering their Bullpen with a pair of acquisitions that should better position them down the road. Keep in mind that the club already addressed their Starting Rotation by signing former Cy Young, Dallas Keuchel (3-4, 3.86 ERA, 9 GS, 56.0 IP, 51 H, 24 ER, 8 HR, 19 BB, 42 K, 1.250) as a Free Agent back in early June, with Brian Snitker looking to improve up a Bullpen that has operated without a reliable support system for their Closer, Luke Jackson (6-2, 3.88 ERA, 48 G, 17 SV, 51.0 IP, 52 H, 22 ER, 7 HR, 19 BB, 70 K, 1.392 WHIP), who has suddenly become erratic, posting a bloated 11.57 ERA in eight appearances since the All-Star Break. As a result, the club acquired the services of a pair veteran Relievers, Shane Greene (0-2, 1.38 ERA, 39 G, 22 SV, 39.0 IP, 24 H, 6 ER, 5 HR, 13 BB, 43 K, 0.949 WHIP) from the Detroit Tigers and Mark Melancon (4-2, 3.42 ERA, 44 G, 1 SV, 47.1 IP, 50 H, 18 ER, 3 HR, 17 BB, 44 K, 1.415 WHIP) from the San Francisco Giants, with designs on both Pitchers stabilizing the Bullpen , which will no doubt be needed come the Playoffs. If Jackson continues his struggles, there is a strong possibility that Greene could supplant him as Closer, a role that he flourished in over the past two years with the Tigers, racking up Fifty-Four Saves with a 3.69 ERA in 105 Appearances, averaging 9.5 Strikeouts per Nine Innings. This is good news for Mike Soroka (10-2, 237 ERA, 19 GS, 114.0 IP, 99 H, 30 ER, 6 HR, 28 BB, 94 K, 1.114 WHIP), the Rookie Righthander who will be taking the mound for Snitker tonight. In just his first season as a regular in the Starting Rotation, Soroka has been by far and away the most effective arm among Atlanta’s Starters. The 21-Year Old ranks second in the National League in both ERA (2.37) and Win Percentage (.833), while relinquishing the lowest average of Home Runs per Nine Innings (0.5) among qualified Pitchers. With the additions to the Bullpen, perhaps he’ll earn a formal Decision this time around, for when we last saw him, the youngster put together his second consecutive Quality Start ending with a ND. In a 5-4 victory over the Washington Nationals last Wednesday, Soroka allowed One Run on just Three Hits over the course of 7.0 Innings, with Three Strikeouts and a Walk. It was his seventh No-Decision of the season, and his fifth in his last Eight Starts.
Meanwhile, 2019 is proving to be a cyclical campaign for the Twins (68-42, 1st in AL Central), who after jumping out to an impressive 36-16 record, followed by a mediocre stretch in which they went 25-24, have slowly begun to trend upward once more, winning seven of their last nine outings. It couldn’t come at a better time for Minnesota, who during their malaise saw the Cleveland Indians, who are now trailing them by just three games within the Division. It come as no surprise that the reason for their improvement has been all-around return to the health, particularly to the Batting Order, which played such a prominent role in their early season surge; Rocco Baldelli’s charges rank First in the Majors in Home Runs (216), Slugging Percentage (.502), and OPS (.839), with eleven different players tagging at least Ten Home Runs, including six with eighteen or more. They’ve exploded during this latest successful stretch, averaging 7.0 Runs per Game over the past nine contests, and in their seven wins have posted 8.3. Max Kepler (.268 BA, 102 G, 109 H, 75 R, 27 2B, 30 HR, 76 RBI, 45 BB, 72 K) and Nelson Cruz (.295 BA, 82 G, 90 H, 56 R, 19 2B, 30 HR, 72 RBI, 39 BB, 95 K) have hammered Thirty Homers apiece, while the healthy return of Eddie Rosario (.283 BA, 91 G, 105 H, 59 R, 16 2B, 23 HR, 72 RBI, 15 BB, 52 K) has made their Lineup even more difficult to contend with. As of now, they’re on pace to bash a whopping 318 Home Runs, which would shatter the single-season record of 283, which was set by last year’s New York Yankees. As you can imagine, all of this Run Support has overshadowed their work from the mound, where the Twins have been above average in 2019, ranking Fourth in the American League in Team ERA (4.05), Second in Saves (31), and Third in Home Runs Allowed (138), all the while permitting the fewest Walks (308). Like many contenders, Minnesota was active at the Trade Deadline, acquiring Sam Dyson (4-1, 3.48 ERA, 51 G, 2 SV, 51.2 IP, 45 H, 20 ER, 3 HR, 9 BB, 48 K, 1.045 WHIP) from the San Francisco Giants with designs of bolstering their own Bullpen. The veteran Righthander was excellent for the Giants, logging 2.47 ERA and 0.902 WHIP in Forty-Nine Appearances, sporting a solid 6.71 Strikeout/Walk Ratio. However, after just his second appearance with the Twins, the Reliever was placed on the 10-Day Disabled List due to Tendinitis in his Right Shoulder. The club hopes that he’s only going to be out of action for a short period of team, though they may take the extra precautions after witnessing him yield Six Runs over 2/3 of an Inning since the trade. Taking the mound tonight for Baldelli will be Jake Odorizzi (12-5, 3.73 ERA, 21 GS, 108.2 IP, 92 H, 45 ER, 14 HR, 37 BB, 113 K, 1.187 WHIP), who is quietly enjoying a career campaign, posting career-highs in Win Percentage (.706) and Strikeouts Per Nine Innings (9.4). When we last saw him, the veteran Righthander rebounded from a ghastly effort in a 7-10 loss against the Yankees, shutting the Miami Marlins down in a 2-1 standoff. On that night, Odorizzi relinquished One Earned Run on Four Hits over the course of 5.0 Innings, striking out Five in comparison to walking just one batter. This is one guy who would benefit greatly from an expanded Bullpen, for he has lasted longer than Six Innings on two occasions Twenty-One Starts this season, including seven straight in which he’s failed to complete six.