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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Minnesota Twins

Things have taken a turn for the Twins since the last time these teams met to start the 2021 season

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Boston Red Sox David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

When the Brewers opened the season against the Minnesota Twins, it was a matchup of two teams who had aspirations of a deep playoff run. Minnesota was coming off back-to-back AL Central titles and was hoping to take the next step to becoming an AL contender.

Instead, it all came crashing down.

The Twins took 2 of 3 from the Brewers in the season-opening series, but ended up going 9-15 in April and never really rebounded after that (although they are a decent 11-11 so far this month). They decided to sell off some major pieces during trade deadline season, including sending Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay, Jose Berrios to Toronto and J.A. Happ to St. Louis.

The result is a team that is once again in last place while it begins another rebuilding cycle.

The Lineup

While Cruz is gone, there still are a few bats that could prove to be dangerous this weekend, as Minnesota’s problems have been more tied to the pitching than the hitting.

Shortstop Jorge Polanco leads the team in just about every category, coming into the weekend hitting .274/.335/.496 with 25 home runs, 24 doubles and 76 driven in while putting up a 124 wRC+ and compiling 3.4 fWAR to this point. Polanco doesn’t walk much — his BB% for the season is just 7.7% — but he also doesn’t strike out much, pretty consistently making contact with a 17.2% K% that is pretty low for this era.

Outside of Polanco, Miguel Sano and Josh Donaldson are still in the Twin Cities and still provide a power threat — as evidenced by Sano hitting a 495-foot bomb a couple nights ago. Those two have combined for 41 home runs while playing about 100 games each.

Minnesota also still has Luis Arraez setting things up for those big bats, hitting .306/.374/.394 on the year.

The Probable Pitchers

Friday, 7:10 p.m. CDT - Eric Lauer vs. Andrew Albers

Albers is a 35-year-old Canadian lefty who’s largely been a career minor leaguer with a stint overseas and a few MLB cups of coffee here and there, compiling just 124.2 innings in the majors since making his debut back in 2013. He’s largely spent the last few years in Japan but returned stateside this year and put up a 3.86 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) at Triple-A St. Paul before getting called up a little more than a week ago. Fun fact: he was a 12th round pick of the Brewers in 2004, but didn’t sign and ended up going to the University of Kentucky. He’s the epitome of a soft-throwing lefty, averaging just 88 mph on his fastball while also throwing a 78 mph slider.

Saturday, 6:10 p.m. CDT - Adrian Houser vs. Charlie Barnes

Barnes is a rookie left-hander and former 4th-round pick of the Twins making his 5th career start this weekend. After making his MLB debut in a doubleheader on July 17, Barnes joined the team on a more permanent basis after Minnesota traded away Berrios and Happ at the deadline. He’s been a bit inconsistent, as you would expect young pitchers to be, mixing in some nice outings (like his 5 inning, 3 hit, 1 run start against Tampa Bay on August 15) with some clunkers (7 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings against the Yankees in his most recent start). He’s largely worked with a 90 mph fastball and a 79 mph changeup while mixing in a slider in his outings so far.

Sunday, 1:10 p.m. CDT - TBD vs. Griffin Jax

Griffin Jax is a real human baseball pitcher and not some kind of comic book superhero alter ego, although the fact that he is a graduate of the Air Force Academy would also make for a good superhero backstory. The 26-year-old is also a rookie, but has unfortunately had a rocky time in the majors thus far. He’s been hit to the tune of a 6.29 ERA in 11 games and hasn’t missed many bats, striking out just 39 batters in 48.2 innings (and 10 of those came in one outing against the White Sox on August 10th). He’s coming off an outing in which the Red Sox scored 9 times in less than 5 innings against him, hitting 3 home runs. Jax has been prone to the longball in his short big league career, giving up 14 of them already.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs and Statcast