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Series Preview: Rays vs Twins

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Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The scorching hot Tampa Bay Rays offense led them to a series victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Rays offense has been good all year, but has stepped things up a notch in the second half. Since the All-Star break the Rays are hitting .255/.326/.479 and putting up a 122 wRC+ while scoring 6.16 runs per game. This has led the Rays to a 17-8 record good for second in the majors behind the Milwaukee Brewers (17-7).

This surge has given the Rays a season best 5.0 game lead in the American League East over the Boston Red Sox. The New York Yankees are 7.0 games back. The Toronto Blue Jays are 7.5 games back. The Baltimore Orioles are 31.0 games back.

The Rays hold a 2.0 game lead over the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros for the best record in the American League.

Matchups:

Friday 8:10 PM: Shane McClanahan vs Michael Pineda
Saturday 7:10 PM: Michael Wacha vs Kenta Maeda
Sunday 2:10 PM: Luis Patino vs TBA

The Minnesota Twins made a few big trades at the deadline, moving Nelson Cruz and Jose Berrios, but they didn’t move impending free agent Michael Pineda. Pineda has been an effective pitcher this year with a 3.83 ERA/4.15 FIP/4.27 xFIP over 82.1 innings. He has a 20.5% strikeout rate and 5.0% walk rate. The right hander has lost a couple of ticks on his fastball bottoming out at 90.6 mph this year after being in the 92-93 range in 2019 to 2020. He leans on a 81.2 mph slider as his primary breaking ball of choice. He adds a 85.4 mph changeup that he mostly throws against left handed batters but is willing to throw it righties.

Kenta Maeda was dominant for the Twins in 2020 after coming over from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the Mookie Betts trade. This year he hasn’t been nearly as effective with a 4.69 ERA/4.24 FIP/3.87 xFIP. His strikeout rate is down but still strong at 25.3% while his walk rate has ballooned to 7.3%. Part of this was well foreseeable as his .208 BABIP in 2020 was unsustainable; this year it is a more normal .323.

The Twins bullpen has been a source of most of their struggles. They have put up a 4.82 ERA/4.42 FIP/4.26 xFIP. Their most effective reliever, Taylor Rogers, was placed on the Injured List with a finger sprain just before the trade deadline. Caleb Thielbar and Tyler Duffey have otherwise been their most effective relievers. Former Ray Alex Colome has really struggled and lost his closer role.

Twins have hit well.

Despite their overall record being 50-65 it hasn’t been the offense that failed them. They have hit .242/.316/.425 and put up a 103 wRC+. Their 163 homers ranks third in the majors leading them to a respectable 4.57 runs per game. Nelson Cruz flipping sides is definitely a big loss but they can still hit.

Mitch Garver (130 wRC+), Jorge Polanco (125 wRC+), Josh Donaldson (122 wRC+), and Luis Arraez (118 wRC+) have been productive hitters for the Twins.

Miguel Sano (103 wRC+), Trevor Larnach (94 wRC+), Willians Astudillo (93 wRC+), Max Kepler (90 wRC+).

Andrelton Simmons (58 wRC+) has really struggled though his defense is still solid.

Defensively the metrics either love (+32 DRS) or hate (-20.2 UZR) the Twins defense.

The Twins have been playing well.

The Twins are coming off series wins against the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros. The Astros series specifically was strong considering it was a four game series.

Even though they don’t have Nelson Cruz, Jose Berrios, or Byron Buxton with them they are still a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Rays should be able to continue winning series but can’t afford to overlook the Twins.