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Rays at Twins Series Preview: Shane Baz is back

Tonight’s game is in AppleTV+

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays capped off a series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with dominant pitching and timely hitting. The Rays continue their strong first third of the season at a 97 win pace.

The New York Yankees continue their scorching hot start to the season and hold a 7.0 game lead on the Rays, 7.5 game lead on the Toronto Blue Jays, 11.5 game lead on the Boston Red Sox, and 17.5 game lead on the Baltimore Orioles.

As of this morning the AL East continues to hold the three Wild Card berths.

Schedule

Friday 8:10 PM: Drew Rasmussen vs Devin Smeltzer (AppleTV+)
Saturday 2:10 PM: Shane Baz vs TBA
Sunday 2:10 PM: Jeffrey Springs vs Cole Sands

Devin Smeltzer has gotten off to a great start with a 1.93 ERA, but the 3.79 FIP and 4.65 xFIP suggests he’s been more solid than great. His 12.5% strikeout rate is extremely low, but his 5.8% walk rate is very good. Smeltzer possesses the stuff of your stereotypical crafty lefty. He throws a 89.9 mph four-seam fastball, 82.3 mph changeup, and 75.8 mph curveball as his three primary pitches. He will occasionally throw a 85.6 mph slider.

Shane Baz is scheduled to make his season debut for the Rays after having surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow towards the end of Spring Training. The Minnesota Twins have not announced who will make the start opposite Baz.

In game three the Rays will face Cole Sands, who attended Florida State University. His first 11.2 major league innings have not been great as he’s put up a 8.49 ERA/6.92 FIP/4.79 xFIP, but with a solid 22.4% strikeout rate. Where he has gotten in trouble is his 10.3% walk rate, but four homers on balls that got airborne has not helped. Sands throws a 92.0 mph four-seam fastball as his primary pitch. His secondary pitch of choice is a 78.5 mph curveball that he will throw in any situation. He will add in a 85.5 mph changeup, but throws it more frequently to left handed batters.

MLB: New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins
Cole Sands
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Twins have started to hit.

As a team the Twins are hitting .251/.324/.410 and putting up a 114 wRC+. They will draw walks and strikeout, but when they put the ball in play they have done a lot of damage. They haven’t shown a willingness to run on the bases, but Byron Buxton is one of the fastest players in the league. His early season knee injury has caused the Twins to give him periodical rest and kept him from racking up stolen bases.

The Twins have gotten positive offensive production from most of their lineup, and Buxton has built upon his breakout wtih a .231/.315/.563 line and 149 wRC+. He leads the team with 15 homers.

Luis Arraez (161 wRC+) has been a great contact hitter whose season line resembles Yandy Diaz. He walks a lot while having a very low strikeout rate and ISO.

The Twins made a huge splash signing Carlos Correa this past winter. Outside of missing time with an injury he has done everything they could’ve hoped with a .286/.356/.429 line and 130 wRC+.

Trevor Larnach (129 wRC+), Max Kepler (123 wRC+), Gio Urshela (114 wRC+), Jorge Polanco (110 wRC+), and Gary Sanchez (100 wRC+) have provided plenty of support. It’s a respectable offense.