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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Minnesota Twins

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The Brewers wrap up a long road trip hoping to avoid their usual headaches in the Twin Cities

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays
Paul Molitor’s team has struggled to live up to their surprise playoff appearance in 2017.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers have rolled through the first two legs of their 10-game, 11-day road trip by winning 5 of 7 in Colorado and Arizona. Now they head to Minnesota, where things have always seemed harder than they should be against their interleague border rivals.

The Brewers lost all four games they played against the Twins last year and haven’t won a season series against them since 2015. The last time the Brewers won at Target Field was April 19th, 2016. That might not mean much since the Brewers step into the Land of Fewer Lakes Than Wisconsin once a year, but there are still plenty of bad memories from the Twin Cities since the Brewers switched leagues. Some of us are still scarred by Ben Hendrickson failing to record a single out there in 2006.

This year’s Twins have been a bit of a disappointment 1/4 of the way through the season after surprising everyone by making the playoffs as a wildcard in 2017. They come into this series at 18-21, but considering they’re playing in the worst division in baseball, they’re still just 1.5 games behind Cleveland for first place.

As usual, the Twins’ offense hasn’t been anything to write home about to this point in the season. Eddie Rosario (.296/.323/.523, 9 home runs) and Eduardo Escobar (.279/.331/.543, 7 home runs) have been the leading producers while guys like Brian Dozier (.242/.304/.418) have struggled to get going. Joe Mauer may not be hitting well above .300 anymore, but age hasn’t gotten to his eyes yet -- he’s still carrying an OBP of .409.

Overall, the Twins have scored the 5th-fewest runs in baseball despite being about average in batting average, OBP and slugging.

Probable Pitchers

Friday - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Brent Suter vs. Kyle Gibson

Saturday - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Freddy Peralta vs. Fernando Romero

Sunday - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Junior Guerra vs. Jake Odorizzi

After years of disappointing, Gibson is off to a good start to his age-30 season and showing a little of what made him such a promising prospect back in the day. At the one-quarter mark of the season, he’s put up a pretty good 3.43 ERA/3.10 FIP in 44.2 innings, striking out 50 in 44.2 innings. That’s a huge jump in his strikeout rate -- he’s punched out more than a quarter of the batters he’s faced after striking out just 17.5% of them last year. Gibson has already accounted for more fWAR this year (1.2) than he did all of last year (1.1).

Saturday features a matchup of promising young starters. Freddy Peralta may be coming off a 13-strikeout debut, but Romero has also impressed in his short time in the majors. Coming into the year as MLB Pipeline’s #68 overall prospect, the 23-year-old has put up a 0.54 ERA in 3 starts, striking out 20 in 16.2 innings. He has struggled a bit with control, though, walking 9 batters, hitting 2 others and uncorking on a wildpitch in that time. For the most part, though, that wildness has been effective early.

The big matchup of the weekend -- at least when it comes to The Narrative -- will be Sunday’s finale between Guerra and Odorizzi. Not only is Odorizzi a former Brewers farmhand traded to Kansas City as part of the Zack Greinke deal, but he’s a pitcher that the Twins basically got for free in a trade with Tampa Bay this winter -- a deal some Brewer fans were wondering why the Brewers didn’t make. In the end, the Brewers decided to go with Guerra/Brent Suter/Brandon Woodruff at the back end of the rotation instead. Odorizzi has put up good superficial numbers with the Twins so far (a 3.35 ERA in 9 starts), but while he’s upped his strikeout rate from 21% to 22.3%, his walk rate is still high. He’s walked 10.4% of the batters he’s faced, leading to FIP saying that ERA should be closer to 5.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs