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Orioles-Twins series preview: AL Central’s underwhelming best team visits

The Twins still lead the lackluster Central despite consecutive losing months and a lineup that strikeouts out in bunches. They come to Camden Yards for a weekend set.

MLB: JUN 27 Twins at Braves Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The mediocrity of this year’s AL Central has become a social media meme, a status that seems unlikely to go away anytime soon. After all, these Twins are leading the group despite a sub-.500 40-42 record entering this series. But if you look under the hood the Twins are a bit better than their record indicates.

Just look at their run differential and, by extension, expected record. The Twins have outscored their opponents by 24 runs this season. That’s only three fewer than what our beloved Orioles have done, and yet the two teams are separated by 11 games in the loss column.

Minnesota is still waiting for their active offseason to pay off. Carlos Correa, in year one of a big six-year deal he (finally!) inked back in January, has stayed healthy, but he’s sporting just a .690 OPS. Pablo López was a pricey addition atop the rotation—costing Luis Arraez in a trade and $73.5 million in a contract extension—and so far he’s giving them length (96 innings) but mediocre production (96 ERA+). And newbie Christian Vázquez is playing some fine defense behind the plate but has just one home run and a .594 OPS.

Offense is an issue for the Twins. They are in the bottom third of the league in runs scored (22nd, 343), batting average (25th, .231), and on-base percentage (23rd, .308). Home runs are the saving grace as their 104 long balls are eighth in MLB, but it comes at a price. They strike out more than anyone else, and it’s not close. Their 838 K’s are far ahead of the second-place Giants (783).

Byron Buxton is a full-time DH now, a decision made to protect the fragile star. But it certainly isn’t boosting his offense. His .729 OPS for the season is buoyed by a terrific April (.881 OPS). Since May 14 he is batting .186/.255/.381.

Willi Castro leads the team with 15 stolen bases. Joey Gallo still has his all-or-nothing approach (13 homers, 111 wRC+, 40% strikeout rate). Royce Lewis is recently healthy and crushing it (131 wRC+), although he’s helped by a .414 BABIP. And Ryan Jeffers can put up some huge exit velocities, which helps boost his team-leading .357 wOBA (among players with at least 100 plate appearances).

We will not see familiar face Jorge López this weekend. The former Orioles’ closer has been on the IL since June 18 as he handles his mental health. There is a chance he will return when the O’s go to Minnesota the following weekend.

Game 1: Friday, June 30th, 7:05 p.m., MASN 2

RHP Dean Kremer (8-3, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Pablo López (3-5, 4.41 ERA)

Kremer has stabilized to reality this month with a 4.34 ERA over five starts. That’s right about where his xFIP from both last year (4.43) and this year (4.36) say he should be. Home runs have been a big issue for him lately as he has allowed five in his last two starts and eight total in the month of June.

The gap between López’s ERA (5.04) and FIP (1.92) in June is massive. Over 30.1 innings he has only allowed one home run and a .617 OPS, but teams are still finding ways to score. The righty has started racking up strikeouts recently, sitting down 28 batters on strikes over his last 17.2 innings.

Game 2: Saturday, July 1st, 4:05 p.m., MASN 2

RHP Kyle Bradish (4-3, 3.75 ERA) vs. RHP Bailey Ober (4-4, 2.97 ERA)

Bradish is on a roll right now. The righty is averaging 6+ innings in each of his last three starts and owns a 2.37 ERA in that time, and he is coming off a start that saw him throw 103 pitches, just two short of a career high.

As good as Ober has pitched this season, the righty has looked more human in recent weeks. In his last four starts he has a 4.24 ERA (4.47 FIP) over 23.1 total innings. His stuff is not overwhelming, but he does nice job of mixing his four pitches (four-seam, change, slider, curve), and gets loads of chases as a result.

Game 3: Sunday, July 2nd, 12:05 p.m., Peacock

LHP Cole Irvin (1-3, 7.18 ERA) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (4-2, 2.67 ERA)

The Irvin experiment continues. The first inning he threw in the Reds series looked awful. He was getting hit hard all over the park, but ultimately he allowed just one run and completed three innings before the rain ended his day. Irvin is a pitcher that has to live on the edges of the strike zone without nibbling so much that he issues walks. So far, he has been much better about avoiding those free passes since his big league return. Now he just needs to make it through five innings with regularity.

Gray looked like a Cy Young candidate through the season’s first two months, and he might still be one. But June has been more of a fight for him. Opponents have a .754 OPS this month, which has led to a 3.95 ERA (4.23 FIP). He’s simply letting too many runners on: 31 hits and nine walks in 27.1 innings.


How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Twins?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    0 (get swept)
    (8 votes)
  • 22%
    (62 votes)
  • 58%
    (164 votes)
  • 16%
    3 (do the sweeping!)
    (45 votes)
279 votes total Vote Now