An exhausted Orioles team is off to Minnesota, and there’s a few nice things about that.
- New opponents! The Orioles haven’t seen the Twins in over two years. And they don’t have to keep facing the AL East, with its familiar cast of punishing offenses.
- The Orioles have been way better on the road this year than at home, for mysterious reasons that are not solely the fault of Camden Yards’s dimensions.
- With a 17-29 record right now, it looks like the only thing the Twins are competing for is a 2022 top draft pick.
The Twins and the Orioles are coming into this three-game series with the exact same win-loss record, but there is one enormous difference between the two teams: the Twins were supposed to compete this year, and the Orioles were not. On March 31, FanGraphs gave the Twins a 63% chance of making the playoffs. Today, those odds have dwindled to 8.9%.
It always sucks to be bad, but it sucks worse when your team has been picked to win its division. The Twins have been one of baseball’s greatest disappointments this year, even though their offense is solid as expected. Their team WAR of 7.3 is sixth-best in baseball. Nelson Cruz keeps mashing at age 40, with 10 homers and 24 RBI. First baseman Miguel Sano is hitting .190, but with enough power that he’s still got a 122 OPS+. Byron Buxton is hitting .370 with a 1.180 OPS—unfortunately, he’s on the 10-day IL with a strained hip.
The Twins have been the victims of very bad pitching. Minnesota’s team WAR on the pitching side of 0.9 is last in baseball. Their team FIP of 4.76: last in baseball. Their 67 home runs allowed: tied for last in baseball. (With the Orioles. Sigh.) Other than two-time All-Star José Berrios and former Yankee Michael Pineda, who’s just coming off the 10-day IL, the Twins’ rotation—Kenta Maeda, J.A. Happ, and Matt Shoemaker—has a combined 6.03 ERA. Tell me about it.
Game 1: Monday, May 24, 7:40 ET
LHP John Means (4-0, 1.70 ERA) v. RHP Matt Shoemaker (2-5, 6.08 ERA)
Along with the return of Trey Mancini, the bright spot of the Orioles’ 2021 season has been the emergence of John Means as a potential ace. Though Means allowed four runs in his last start against Tampa Bay, he’s still leading the AL in a bunch of pitching categories. This will be his first career start against Minnesota.
He’ll be opposed by Matt Shoemaker, an eight-year veteran who’s spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Angels. The righty is having a down year so far, although in his last start he held the AL Central-leading White Sox to two runs over six innings.
Game 2: Tuesday, May 25, 7:40 ET
RHP Dean Kremer (0-4, 6.35 ERA) v. RHP José Berríos (4-2, 3.91 ERA)
Dean Kremer could use a bounceback start as much as anybody after a rough outing against the Rays where he surrendered four runs in three innings. Maybe the change of scenery—Kremer has never faced an AL Central opponent—will do him good.
It hasn’t been the greatest season for Berríos, a perennial All-Star and sometime Cy Young Award contender. His 3.91 ERA and 101 ERA+ are, pretty literally, average. But he has been good at two things in 2021: going long in games and striking hitters out. Berríos has tossed five or more innings in eight of nine starts, and he leads the Twins with 56 K’s. Freddy Galvis and Trey Mancini have good numbers against Berríos, though, hitting .400 and .333 against him, respectively.
Game 3: Wednesday, May 26, 1:10 ET
RHP Jorge López (1-5, 6.00 ERA) v. RHP Michael Pineda (2-2, 2.79 ERA)
Michael Pineda has been the Twins’ biggest bright spot in terms of pitching. The righty was scratched from his last start and put on the 10-day IL after needing surgery on an abscess, but he’s scheduled to be activated in time for Wednesday’s start. Over his first seven starts, opposing batters are hitting .204 against Pineda, his best rate since 2014.
On a better club, Jorge López might be a candidate for the bullpen, but there’s nobody exactly breathing down his neck for a rotation spot right now. López, as probably everybody reading this blog knows by now, has been downright unwatchable in the fifth inning, where he has a 27.00 ERA. But he’s had his moments this season, flashing 98 mph with his fastball during his last start against the Nationals, when he went five innings and allowed two runs.
All in all, the Orioles’ sad recent stretch of baseball aside, there are conceivable reasons for the tired faithful of Baltimore to hope to snatch a win or two from a scuffling Minnesota. Hopefully a change of scenery will do good things for the Birds.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Twins?
This poll is closed
3 (clean sweep)
0 (get swept)