Series Preview: Royals at Minnesota Twins, August 27-29
The suddenly not ice cold Royals travel to Minnesota to take on the Twins for the final time in 2013. The Royals have had a great run against them this season going 12-4 and look to finish up a dominating run against them by winning two of three or even sweeping. The Twins are not a good team, but have some bright spots on their team. Offensively, they’re not very good, but they do have the potential to score in spurts because they have some occasional home run power. They have seven players with 10 or more homers which seems pretty good. Their leader, though, has 15. Of course, Justin Morneau is the one with 15 and he’s been pretty hot lately, in terms of hitting homers. Joe Mauer is on the concussion disabled list and is eligible to come off for this series, but is not expected to. This offense hits a ton of doubles, but doesn’t really do anything else consistently well. They do walk at a decent rate.
Every time the Royals and Twins play, I talk about the Twins starting rotation because it just isn’t very good. Their best starter is Samuel Deduno and he’s got a pretty good ERA, but if he’s your best starter, you have some big problems. Their starters simply don’t strike anybody out. Their team leader is Kevin Correia and the battle between him and Royals closer, Greg Holland, for strikeouts is strangely riveting to me. As this series opens, they’re currently tied at 81. Holland has thrown 96.2 less innings than Correia. Like I’ve said before, though, the Twins do have a pretty solid bullpen, so if their offense can put up a few runs and give them a lead after six innings, they’re tough to beat because they have really solid relievers.
The joy of playing 19 games against division rivals is that I may be repeating some things from previous series previews. So if this is a repeat, my apologies, but I’ll try to throw in some new things.
Tuesday – Kevin Correia vs. James Shields
The aforementioned Kevin Correia gets the nod in the series opener and will make his fifth start of the season against the Royals. If you were curious, the Royals are responsible for eight of his strikeouts. Two of his starts against the Royals have been bad while the other two have been good. It’s really anybody’s guess which Correia comes out to play.
Three things to watch for against Correia:
- Correia throws a pretty good array of pitches with a four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, curve and cutter. What’s interesting is that in August, he’s really gone away from throwing his sinker as much, dropping from using it 25% of the time in July to about 12.5% of the time in August. The constant is the cutter.
- Pretty much everything Correia throws has gotten hit fairly hard this season, but his curve has been the best, as he’s allowed opponents to get a .273 average with a .375 SLG. That’s not¬†great by any stretch, but it’s better than any other pitch he throws. With that knowledge, he throws the curve way more with two strikes than any other time.
- Lots of Royals have had success against Correia with Moustakas, Carroll, Butler and Hosmer the four Royals with a career OPS of above .800 against him with more than 10 plate appearances.
This will be the fourth start of the year against the Twins for Shields and he’s been pretty good in Minnesota, but got lit up the last time he faced them in Kansas City. Where Shields has struggled when he’s struggled is with command. In his last start, he got the strikeout groove back and didn’t walk anybody in his last start. He did blow a three run lead, but looked a little better. Hopefully he can build on that.
Wednesday – Andrew Albers vs.
Bruce Chen¬†Danny Duffy
The Royals are still having nightmares from the big league debut of Andrew Albers after he shut them down for 8.1 innings in early August. He threw a complete game shutout in his next start. And then it appeared the book had gotten out on him as he has been hit hard in each of his last two starts.
Three things to watch for against Albers:
- Albers is kind of your classic finesse lefty who doesn’t throw very hard. He has a four-seam fastball that he uses a fair amount and a sinker that both sit around 87 MPH. He also throws a slider and then mixes in the occasional changeup and curve. He gets swings and misses about 5% of the time, so that’s not very good.
- The slider is the pitch that most of the damage has been done against Albers, but I’m not convinced any of his pitches are especially good. The Royals make a habit out of struggling against pitchers they haven’t seen, so the second go might be much better for them.
- He hasn’t had much of a split in the big leagues when comparing handedness of hitters, and that mirrors what he did in the minors. I just think the Royals are going to tee off on him based on the way the offense has looked the last few days with some real signs of breaking out of their big slump.
Danny Duffy is back and will replace Wade Davis in the rotation with Chen shifting back to Thursday’s start to keep Duffy as close to on schedule as the Royals can. It’s very simple for Duffy. Throw strikes and put hitters away. His stuff is good enough to be an excellent big league starter. It’s when he starts nibbling and giving up 11 foul balls with two strikes that he ends up in trouble. Nobody in the Twins lineup has seen Duffy much, so this one’s on Duffy to have a great start.
Thursday – Samuel Deduno vs.
Wade Davis Bruce Chen
The Twins send their best starter to the hill against Wade Davis. I think there’s actually a chance Davis doesn’t make this start, but rather Danny Duffy takes his spot in the rotation for the rest of the season. (I think I got this one about as close to right as I could.) Regardless, the Royals starter will be facing Deduno who has been solid this season.
Three things to watch for against Deduno:
- He isn’t doing anything to try to trick anybody. He throws a fastball about 60% of the time and it sits at around 90-91 MPH. He also throws a curve in the low 80s and he mixes in a changeup. When the count gets to two strikes, the batter is getting a curve more than half the time, and a right-handed batter is getting it almost 2/3 of the time.¬†
- If a batter is going to get to Deduno, it’s going to be on his occasional change or against his fastball. The curve has been excellent, and not surprisingly, is the pitch responsible for about 70% of his strikeouts.
- The Royals have struggled against Deduno for the most part, which isn’t surprising when you think back to the games he’s started in the season series. Billy Butler has a good career line against him as well as Salvador Perez, but really everybody has limited at bats against him, so it’s hard to say who is good against him and who isn’t. He has a¬†massive¬†split as righties have an OPS of about 300 points higher than lefties.
If Davis starts this game, he needs to be better at commanding all his pitches. It seems so simple, but really that’s his biggest problem. He’s either grooving fastballs or walking the yard. There’s not much more to say about Davis. He can be good, but he just hasn’t done that much lately.
Bruce Chen needs a good start in the worst way because he really blew it his last time out when he was given a six run lead and couldn’t hold it. Chen hasn’t had a start against the Twins this year, but he needs to be careful of Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham as both have hit him very well in their careers.
A couple wins for the Royals brings back some optimism, but also facing a Twins team that the Royals have dominated makes me believe this will be a two win series for the Royals. I just hope they don’t get shut down by Albers again. As long as they can avoid that, they should cruise to those two wins.
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