Heading into this four-game series against the Oakland Athletics, Minnesota is just one game behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. No matter which way you slice it, this series is shaping up to be a crucial one.
While Chicago goes on to face Wild-Card leading Boston Red Sox, Minnesota has to deal with below-average Oakland. Sound easy? With Minnesota’s track record against inferior teams, I would say that coming out with a split should be considered a positive thing.
Here is a game-by-game preview of the pitchers Minnesota will face in this upcoming series.
Game One: Nick Blackburn vs. Dana Eveland
Eveland is a rookie 24-year old who has had mixed results in his stint with the Athletics. He has an ERA of 4.30, a 1.48 WHIP, allows 0.45 HR/9, 4.4 BB/9, and 6.27 K/9.
He is a south-paw and has a fastball that is essentially ineffective. Opponents are batting .281 against his fastball, which usually tops out at around 91-92 and remains the same throughout his start. His slider is his best pitch and opposing batters are only hitting .111 against it. He throws it at 82-84 mph and as a result strikes out a lot of batters. Eveland also has solid curveballs and changeups.
As a whole, opponents are batting .231 against Eveland. He likes to throw outside and low to both right- and left-handed batters.
The Twins have had very poor success against unknown hurlers, so let’s hope this is the exception. Minnesota needs to get some baserunners on early and establish themselves as a team to fear.
Game Two: Kevin Slowey vs. Dan Meyer
Dan Meyer is another young pitcher who has made both good and bad starts this year. He has an ERA of 5.95, a 1.373 WHIP, allows 2.28 HR/9, 4.11 BB/9, and 7.3 K/9.
He has just recently been called up from Triple A Sacramento and has limited sample size. He does have three main pitches; a fastball, slider, and changeup. His changeup is proving to be the most effective as opponents are batting only .150 against it. His fastball tops out at 91-93 mph but is hit for a .303 average. His slider is getting roughed up the most as opponents are ripping it for an average of .364.
Opponents are batting .289 against Meyer overall, certainly not good at all. With Slowey’s irradictness on the road lately, expect many baserunners in a potential shootout.
Meyer doesn’t attack hitters and throws the majority of his pitches on the outside of the plate. Like said above, the Twins cannot allow Meyer to look like Rube Waddell. (If you don’t know who Rube is…look him up.)
Game Three: Francisco Liriano vs. Dallas Braden
Braden is a 24-year old youngster already entering his second year with the Athletics. He has also been inconsistent and has compiled an ERA of 4.13, a 1.341 WHIP, allows 0.95 HR/9, 3.01 BB/9, and 5.34 K/9.
He has a decent slider which allows him to strikeout as many batters as he does. Opponents are hitting .167 against his slider. He has a slow fastball that he can only get to 87-89 mph, which opponents are batting .319 against. He also has a curve and a changeup – both of which are marginally effective – in his repetoire.
When everything is included, batters are hitting .288 against Braden. He sticks with the trend of the previous two pitchers and doesn’t throw much inside the plate.
Game Four: Scott Baker vs. Gregory Smith
Smith is another young pitcher, 24-years old with no major league experience prior to 2008. He has an ERA of 3.90, a WHIP of 1.351, allows 0.93 HR/9, 4.19 BB/9, and 5.5 K/9.
Smith is one of the anchors of this extremely young Oakland rotation, and his numbers have proven it. He will be the toughest challege the Twins face during this series. Smith does not have a speedy fastball by any stretch of the imagination – only topping out at 87-89 mph. Opponents are batting .266 against it. His most effective pitch is his changeup, which is being hit at a .197 clip. He also has a solid slider and a decent curve.
Opponents are batting .238 against Smith as a whole.
This entire series is filled with no-name pitchers from Oakland. The most obvious key to this series is to step up and actually get buisness done against a young pitcher. Minnesota roughed up Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and other superstars, but they always seem to struggle against these inferior pitchers. That needs to change if the Twins want any chance at all in any of these games.
All of these pitchers have relatively slow fastballs, but manage to strike out a lot of batters. The veteran position players, such as Mauer, Morneau, Redmond, and even Punto will need to show their younger teammates how to hit against these pitchers.