Brian Dozier

Series Preview: Royals vs. Minnesota Twins, August 18-21

The suddenly red-hot Royals return home to take on the same team they faced last weekend, the Minnesota Twins. You know how the Twins are doing this year, and it makes the Royals struggles seem tame by comparison. The Royals have cleaned up pretty well against the Twins, winning seven of nine, including all three games the two teams have played in Kansas City. The Royals playoff hopes are slim, so they simply have to win this series to keep those hopes going.

Twins Offense

The Twins are scary offensively, and it’s not because they’re great. It’s because they work the count and can hit the ball out of the ballpark. A team that works walks and hits home runs can be dangerous against the Royals. Now, if Miguel Sano’s elbow injury is bad enough to sap some power, they’re less scary, but they still have a few guys who can take a pitcher deep at basically any time. Plus, Brian Dozier is a killer.

Twins hitters the last 30 days:

Juan Centeno 12 44 .359 .419 .487 0 6 7 0
Brian Dozier 28 129 .322 .367 .729 11 25 24 1
Eduardo Escobar 16 64 .258 .281 .419 2 9 5 0
Robbie Grossman 19 83 .224 .289 .368 2 7 10 0
Max Kepler 27 118 .303 .398 .535 6 19 20 2
Joe Mauer 25 105 .352 .438 .582 3 16 18 1
Trevor Plouffe 7 28 .320 .393 .400 0 5 2 0
Jorge Polanco 17 74 .352 .361 .451 0 6 7 2
Eddie Rosario 25 98 .315 .357 .533 4 15 17 2
Miguel Sano 21 92 .271 .326 .565 6 14 10 0
Danny Santana 15 43 .300 .349 .350 0 1 8 1
Kurt Suzuki 18 71 .269 .310 .433 1 6 10 0
Kennys Vargas 16 68 .196 .324 .411 3 9 10 0

Twins Pitching

It’s certainly not good, and it’s worse with Tommy Milone on the disabled list. Actually, maybe it’s not worse. He does have a 5.68 ERA this season. Still, the alternatives just aren’t there for them. Aside from Ervin Santana, no Twins starter has an ERA below 5.00. Again, this should make you feel better about what the Royals have done this season.

Twins starters the last 30 days:

Jose Berrios 3 13.0 1 2 8.31 10 2
Tyler Duffey 5 22.2 3 2 7.54 20 4
Kyle Gibson 6 37.2 3 1 4.54 26 11
Ervin Santana 5 35.1 3 1 1.53 26 5
Hector Santiago 7 36.2 4 3 5.40 31 16

In the bullpen, it’s a lot of hoping certain guys are good that day. Brandon Kintzler has been solid as closer, but that’s really about it for them in terms of consistency. And, as I may have mentioned last week, a closer with so few strikeouts is one that concerns me.

Twins relievers the last 30 days:

J.T. Chargois 3 4.2 0 0 0 0.00 2 2
Pat Dean 1 3.0 0 0 0 3.00 6 0
Brandon Kintzler 13 12.2 0 0 7 0.71 7 1
Ryan O’Rourke 1 1.1 0 0 0 0.00 1 0
Ryan Pressly 12 13.0 4 0 1 1.38 10 2
Taylor Rogers 13 11.2 0 0 0 4.63 10 8
Michael Tonkin 11 14.1 0 0 0 4.40 14 7

Forecasts provided by Sensible Weather. For daily MLB weather forecasts, visit and follow along on Twitter (@SensibleWeather).

Game 1, Thursday: Dillon Gee vs. Tyler Duffey

It’s been a terrible year for Duffey, but he has pitched well in his last two starts, going 13 innings and giving up just three runs on 10 hits with 14 strikeouts and two walks. Unfortunately for the Royals (or maybe fortunately, if seeing him twice in a week is better for offenses), the Royals were his latest victim when he went seven innings of two-run ball. He got the win over his opponent in this one. Still, he gives up a ton of hits and struggles to keep the ball in the yard at times. He gets a fair amount of strikeouts and doesn’t walk that many and he was pretty good last year, but he should be a guy the Royals can hit. He’s 2-0 with a 4.61 ERA now against the Royals in two career starts, both this season.

Three things to watch for against Duffey:

  1. He throws his fastball at about 91-92 MPH and a bit more than 34 percent of the time. His curve is the pitch he goes to most, but it’s been off and on this season. When it’s good, it’s really good, but when it’s bad, he gets whacked, allowing a .453 SLG against it this year. He also throws a sinker and a changeup, both of which have been hit decently as well.
  2. Duffey starts off at his strongest, allowing a .790 OPS the first time through an order before that jumps to .945 the second time through and .880 the third time through. His pitches just seem to flatten out, which isn’t a good thing when you don’t have the best stuff in the world to start.
  3. Right-handed bats have hit .320/.366/.592 against him while lefties have struggled a bit with a .275/.312/.427 line. Cheslor Cuthbert has a homer against Duffey from his last start while Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar have hit Duffey well in their brief encounters with him.

I don’t blame Ned Yost for things nearly as often as many fans do, but I think Gee’s poor numbers are partially to blame on Yost for trying to get too much out of him. Twice since coming back to the rotation, Gee has pitched well through five and was brought out for the sixth only to promptly give up runs. I really believe he’s been better than his numbers would indicate, as he’s gotten the Royals five or more innings in each of his four starts. If you get him out of there when it was clear he was likely done, I think you can probably take away six runs allowed and put them on Yost. Of course, Gee has to perform, too. Still, I think he’s been better than it seems. His last start was one of those starts, and he gave up three extra runs after coming back out for the sixth against the Twins. Gee’s allowed homers to Grossman, Rosario, Dozier and Sano and really struggled against most of the Twins lineup, which isn’t great news.

The Forecast

First Pitch Temperature: 88° F
Wind: S at 5-10 mph
Cloud Cover: Mostly Sunny/Clear
Precipitation: 0%

Game 2, Friday: Edinson Volquez vs. Jose Berrios

Berrios looked like he was going to come to the majors and hit the ground running after posting a 2.44 ERA in 16 starts in Triple-A this year, but he’s been brutal in the big leagues, posting a 9.32 ERA in seven starts. He’s struck out a lot, but he’s given up seven homers in 28 innings and really hasn’t done much well at all. He has electric stuff, and has the minor league track record, so you assume he’ll figure it out at some point, but the early returns are awfully rough. His best start to date is probably a game against Houston where he allowed two runs on three hits in 5.1 innings, so the goal is to not let him exceed that. He’s never faced the Royals.

Three things to watch for against Berrios:

  1. He has a good fastball at 94-95 MPH that he throws about half the time. It gets some really good movement on it when he’s going good. He also throws a curve, a changeup and a sinker. The fastball isn’t going good all that often as it’s been hit quite hard with a .345 average against it and a .586 slugging percentage. His sinker has held hitters down pretty well, though, so I wonder if he’ll start going to that more.
  2. There’s really no facet of the game where Berrios has excelled. He gets hit hard with nobody on, he gets hit hard with men on. He gets hit hard early, he gets hit hard late. Although, I guess late isn’t a fair thing to say as he’s never pitched past the sixth inning in his career. He struggles with the batter ahead and he even allows a .778 OPS when he’s ahead in the count. It’s just all bad for him this year.
  3. I guess the one positive is that he’s allowed just a .796 OPS to lefties compared with 1.236 to righties. No, that’s not a typo. No Royal has any big league at bats against him.

Volquez will continue to try to get right for the Royals as he heads into free agency. Since the rumors around him started heating up, Volquez has made four starts and gone 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA, so things haven’t been going swimmingly for him as of late. His season ERA is pushing 5.00, and he just doesn’t seem to have the same stuff he did last season or even early this season. I remember wondering how he’d hold up after the playoff run and the extra stressful innings from that, and so far, the returns just aren’t very good. He has continued to give the Royals innings, though, so that’s at least there. He gave up two earned runs over six innings against the Twins his last time out, and is now a career 5-1 against them with a 2.29 ERA in nine games (eight starts). Mauer has a 1.125 OPS against him in his career, but other than, no Twins hitter has a better than .600 OPS against him.

The Forecast

First Pitch Temperature: 84° F
Wind: S at 5-10 mph
Cloud Cover: Mostly Cloudy
Precipitation: 60% chance of showers/thunderstorms

Game 3, Saturday: Ian Kennedy vs. Hector Santiago

The Royals seemed to have solved Santiago in his last time out, which was a bit of a surprise. Of course, since joining the Twins, Santiago has been nothing short of a disaster. He’s 0-3 with a 9.42 ERA in three starts and he’s only gone 14.1 innings. He’s not walking hitters, but he’s also stopped striking hitters out. He’s given up four homers in those 14.1 innings too, so pretty much nothing is going well for him. Maybe it’s just the curse of the 2016 Twins. Prior to joining the Twins, he was a pretty serviceable starter, so the hope for them and him is that this is just a blip. Even with his rough outing against the Royals, he holds a career 2.96 ERA in 14 games (eight starts) against KC.

Three things to watch for against Santiago:

  1. Santiago has thrown his fastball about 60 percent of the time at an average of about 92-93 MPH, but it’s worth noting that the velocity hasn’t really been there since the trade, averaging about a mile and a half per hour slower than previously. That fastball has also gotten crushed since he’s become a Twin with a slugging percentage against it of over .700. He also throws a changeup, cutter, slider and curve, but the last three pitches are used pretty sparingly.
  2. One thing that’s been good about Santiago this season is that he’s been able to really get it together when he needs to. He’s allowed an OPS of .807 with the bases empty, but that drops to .718 with men on and .690 with runners in scoring position. You could also look at that as a reason why he might continue to regress, but it’s been a positive for him to this point of the season.
  3. He has a typical platoon split with righties hitting .247/.323/.467 against him and lefties hitting .241/.348/.362. The big difference is the power from each side. Righties have hit 20 homers against him compared with four for lefties. The plate appearance difference isn’t 5:1 either, so it’s been a big problem. Paulo Orlando has a triple and a homer against him while Billy Burns and Eric Hosmer have also hit him well. Other homers against him have come from Kendrys Morales and Perez.

Kennedy hopes to continue his nice run of pitching against a team that he should have some success against and has this season. The Twins do a lot of swinging and missing, so Kennedy’s fastball, if it’s good, should be a pitch they struggle with. Kennedy’s season ERA is down to 3.78 with an ERA+ of 116, so he’s been solid this year. Again, the total innings haven’t been there quite as I think the Royals had hoped, but he’s still piling up the innings in most starts. These are arbitrary endpoints, but in his last 11 starts, he’s posted a 3.30 ERA, and that includes a seven-run outburst by the Indians in which he allowed four home runs. He’s 2-1 with a 3.70 ERA in four career starts against the Twins, and that includes a 1.80 ERA in two starts against them this season.

The Forecast

First Pitch Temperature: 77° F
Wind: NW at 6-12 mph
Cloud Cover: Mostly Sunny/Clear
Precipitation: 0%

Game 4, Sunday: Danny Duffy vs. Ervin Santana

The Royals will get to see an old friend in the series finale, and he’s pitched quite well this season. He’s looking an awful lot like the pitcher who pitched in Kansas City in 2013 with some quality innings, enough strikeouts, few enough walks and just generally doing everything well enough to be successful. He’s been especially good lately, going 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA in his last 10 starts. There were rumors Santana could have been traded at the deadline, and I had hoped the Royals would get involved to help them round out their 2017 rotation, but, alas, he’s still with the Twins and the Royals will be looking to end his run of good pitching. Santana is 5-8 with a 4.87 ERA in 18 career starts against the Royals, which includes an 0-1 record and a 7.45 ERA in two starts against them this season.

Three things to watch for against Santana:

  1. Since leaving the Royals, Santana has turned away from his sinker and more to his four-seamer, which averages about 93-94 MPH. He throws it more than 40 percent of the time and doesn’t throw the sinker much at all. He still uses that slider along with a changeup to keep hitters honest. It’s probably good he uses the change fairly sparingly as hitters have hit .315 against it this year, albeit without much power.
  2. This is a weird one. When Santana is behind in the count, he’s allowed a .211/.344/.354 line. That’s a .698 OPS. When he’s even in the count, he’s allowed a .257/.258/.387 line. That’s a .645 OPS. But when he’s ahead in the count, he’s allowed a .293/.291/.427 line. That’s a .718 OPS. You don’t see that too often that a pitcher actually gets hit harder when he’s ahead in the count than when he’s behind.
  3. Santana has been far tougher on lefties than righties with a .627 OPS allowed to them compared to .747 to righties. Perez, Hosmer and Alex Gordon have all homered against him and Hosmer and Gordon have hit him well in their careers. Jarrod Dyson also has two doubles, so don’t be surprised if he gets a Sunday start in this one.

What more is there to say about Danny Duffy that hasn’t been said? He didn’t even seem to really have his great stuff his last time out and he got through 7.2 innings and allowed just one run. He’s now 10-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 18 starts as a starter. He’s 10-1 with a 2.58 ERA in 15 starts since the restrictions were lifted. He’s 8-0 with a 2.21 ERA in his last 10 starts with a 7.1 inning per game average. There’s nothing you can look at with Duffy to find anything wrong with his numbers. It’s just been incredible. Oh yeah, he’s also 4-1 with a 2.33 ERA in 13 games (nine starts) against the Twins in his career, but he’s only made one relief appearance this year. It was a scoreless one over 1.1 innings. He’s given up a homer to Plouffe, but really only Dozier has done much damage against him among hitters who have actually seen a lot of him.

The Forecast

First Pitch Temperature: 75° F
Wind: NW at 4-8 mph
Cloud Cover: Mostly Sunny
Precipitation: 0%

The Prediction

I’m riding these winning ways and hope the Royals can pull off a sweep in this one to gain some traction in the playoff race. I don’t think they do, though, but I do think they take three of four to head into an off day before going on the road for a very important road trip that could define the rest of the season.

Related Articles