Tuesday, April 12, 2011

KC Royals vs. MN Twins Series Preview

Last night's Rays v. Red Sox game gave me hope for the Twins. If you didn't see the game, the Rays unleashed a 20-hit, 16-run onslaught against the Red Sox after hitting even more poorly than the Twins through their first 9 games. I would love to see a game or two or ten like that from our beloved Twins...a laugh-er would be good for the souls of Twins fans everywhere.

Game 1 - Tuesday 7:10pm CST

Pitching Matchup: Jeff Francis (0-0, 1.98 ERA) vs. Brian Duensing (0-0, 5.14 ERA)

Jeff Francis came to the Royals from the Rockies this past off-season and has gotten his 2011 campaign off to a good start...which means he's due to have a blow-up on the mound. During his career, Francis has never had a season-ERA under 4.16 and for over the last two seasons, he hasn't managed an ERA below 5.00 though he has battled through various injuries. His first two starts of this year were both at home, against the Angels and White Sox and in each game he struck-out 4 and walked only 1, gave up 1 homerun and threw about 100 pitches in 6.2IP and 7.0IP respectively. Nobody on the Twins really has much experience with Francis, though Morneau is 1-for-3 with a HR against Francis. The Twins would be best-served to go with as much of a right-handed lineup as they can against the lefty Francis as he has allowed a .298/.346/.464 career hitting line to righty hitters.
As for Brian Duensing, he got roughed up early in his only start of the year against the Yankees, but managed to settle down and get through 7 innings, striking out 7 while walking only 2. Duensing has feasted on Royal hitters so far in his career surrendering a meager .263/.282/.395 hitting line against them in a collective 38 at-bats (7:1 K/BB). The thing the Twins will have to watch in this game, and throughout the series, is KC's penchant to steal bases. Through 9 games, Royal runners have stolen a MLB-best 15 bags, a trend which has carried over from Spring Training where they stole 57 bases. What's interesting to note is that the Royals don't have a starter in the Top 20 for stolen-bases, their team-leader is a bench guy (Jarrod Dyson) and he has 3 stolen bases. For the Royals it's been a team-effort on the bases with 8 guys having at least 1 SB.

If I had to take a guess at a result, I'd say Twins 7, Royals 4

Game 2 - Wednesday 12:10pm CST

Pitching Matchup: Kyle Davies (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-2, 7.71 ERA)

Davies has struggled so far this year giving up 9 runs over two starts, walking 7 and striking out only 5. Davies has never been a very good pitcher in the Majors, but has managed to keep a starting job because of who he pitches for. If the Twins don't score many runs in this one, we'll know something is wrong folks because as a team, the Twins have a .288/.406/.429 hitting line against Davies in 156 at-bats and have walked more times than they've struck out against him. Thome and Kubel both have career 1.200+ OPS marks against Davies so it should be a no-brainer that both of them should be in the lineup.
Francisco Liriano has also struggled so far this season, but looked better in his last outing vs. the Yankees on April 7th. A number of current Royal hitters have had an appreciable number of at-bats against our ace, but none of them have gotten very good results, except for Alex Gordon who owns a .930 OPS against Liriano in 11 career at-bats. I expect Liriano to be even better in this game and it should help him some to be back in the spacious confines of Target Field as well. In his last start against the Yankees, Liriano had a 8/7 GB/FB ratio which indicates that he had improved control of his pitches. If we start to see pitch velocities that are closer to last year's then I think we will start to see Liriano start to dominate the competition once again. Hopefully he will start that trend by putting together a good start against the Royals on Wednesday afternoon.

Prediction: Twins 8, Royals 2

It's just a short two-game set but I hope this is where the Twins will start to turn things around at the plate. Overall the pitching has been good the past few days and the bullpen has been surprisingly good; I think the Twins can really get on a run here if they can get it going with the sticks. Go Twins!

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