The Royals return home and face off against the Minnesota Twins for the first time in 2018. After surprising last season, the Twins were expecting to take another step forward this year but that hasn’t come to fruition just yet. They’ve dealt with a few injuries, losing Jason Castro, Joe Mauer, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxon and Ervin Santana as key pieces of their roster as well as Jorge Polanco to an 80-game PED suspension. With those injuries along with Sano and Buxton both taking big steps back, the offense has been downright bad this season for them. The rotation has been surprisingly good with the addition of Jake Odorizzi as well as contributions from returning members and Fernando Romero starting his career off very well. And the bullpen has been a big strength. Even with the pitching staff keeping them in games most days, they’re very lucky to be in the AL Central.
|Record||21-27, 2nd Place, AL Central|
|Team SP DRA||5.08|
|Team RP DRA||3.88|
|Team WARP Leader||Eddie Rosario, 1.2|
|2017 Record vs. Royals||11-8|
Twins vs. Royals
Twins Projected Lineup
Projected Pitching Matchups
The Twins signed Lynn late in spring training, and his season didn’t get off on the best foot. Prior to his Tommy John surgery that cost him his 2016 season, he was remarkably consistent. On the surface, his numbers last year were great, but his strikeouts dropped and his walks rose. This year, the strikeouts are back up, but he’s walked a ton of hitters. He had his best start of the year his last time out against the Tigers, so it could be that he’s finally found his groove after not having much of a spring. He throws a four-seam fastball about 93-94 MPH quite a bit and a sinker about one-third of the time at 92-93 MPH. He mixes in a cutter, curve and the occasional changeup to round things out. He’s been okay at home this year, but he has an ERA of 8.14 on the road in five starts. Lynn has been pretty bad in basically every situation, but when he sees a lineup a third time, it gets really bad with a .286/.435/.571 line allowed and more walks than strikeouts. In four starts against the Royals in his career, Lynn has been really bad with a 5.55 ERA in 24.1 innings. In that time, he’s allowed 16 runs on 33 hits. Maybe the sight of Royals blue will bring back some bad memories.
Junis has been remarkably consistent this year, so much so that He’s ended each of his last three starts with an ERA between 3.51 and 3.53. He’s striking out a good number of hitters, walking very few and has been tough to hit. The down side on Junis is that he isn’t giving tons of innings over his last three starts, going just 16 innings in those three games, though one of those games was due to playing in National League rules with his spot coming up. If he’s careful with his slider against Rosario and Kepler, he should be able to pitch well as many Twins have struggled against sliders this season. Last year he made two starts against the Twins and posted a 3.27 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11 innings. He did give up home runs to Buxton and Escobar, but he’s an even better pitcher now than last year, so that bodes well.
Gibson posted back-to-back 5.07 ERAs for the Twins the last two years and he’s been a much different pitcher this year. His home runs allowed are down, hits allowed are way down and his strikeouts are way up. His walks are too, but he’s managed to work around them because of the improvement everywhere else. He’s throwing his fastball a bit more this year than in the past, but otherwise, his repertoire isn’t all that different. He has struggled his last two starts, looking a lot more like the Gibson of the past, so we’ll see if things revert back for him as the season progresses. He’s been very good with the bases empty, allowing a .218/.340/.353 line, but he’s been out of this world with runners in scoring position, allowing a .189/.244/.297 line. That tells me that there’s likely regression coming in that regard, or maybe it’s already come. He’s made 15 starts against the Royals in his career and has been quite good, going 6-4 with a 3.46 ERA. Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon have both been quite good against him in their careers while Salvador Perez has two home runs.
After his best start of the season, Duffy is looking to build on that and make it two in a row for the first time this season. He wasn’t perfect against the Rangers, but he looked considerably better and didn’t allow a home run for the first time since April 17 when he went six shutout innings against Toronto. He gave up 30 earned runs and 47 hits in 30 innings in the six starts in between with 11 home runs allowed, so I’m not entirely convinced he’s fixed, but a good start against a Twins lineup that really should be better than the numbers will be a nice sign. He’s been fantastic against the Twins in his career with a 2.49 ERA in 83 innings, and the only season he’s had a seasonal ERA against them over 3.29 was his rookie year. It’s a very small sample, but Robbie Grossman’s 15 plate appearances against Duffy have been really impressive (.462/.533/.846), so even though he’s been really bad this year, he’s someone to watch out for.
Romero is one of the Twins top prospects and has been incredible for them in his first five big league starts. His fastball and sinker average about 96 MPH and he adds a slider that has been responsible for most of his strikeouts to round things out. He’s gotten plenty of strikeouts, walked probably a few too many and limited home runs and hits as well as anyone in baseball. Really every number makes him Romero look every bit the top of the rotation starter he has been since he came up at the start of the month. One of the more amazing ones is that in 50 plate appearances that have ended when the batter had the advantage in the count, he’s allowed just seven singles. Yes, he’s walked a few, but he hasn’t allowed an extra base hit in five starts when he’s behind in the count. That seems crazy. There really isn’t a situation he hasn’t thrived in his brief big league time, so this’ll be a tough one for the Royals.
Keller gets a crack in the rotation after pitching so well out of the bullpen to start the season. While it’s important to get Keller starts this year and I’m all for this, I’m not expecting a ton. One of the reasons he was available in the Rule 5 draft is that he had been somewhat underwhelming as a starter in the minors with a 4.68 ERA in AA last season in 26 starts. If he can maintain most of the velocity he showed in the bullpen, he could be very successful in this role. And if not, this is exactly what the Royals should be doing. I’m not sure what to expect in this start, but I am excited to see what he can do.
I don’t know why, but I have a feeling the Royals are going to fare well this series and actually win two of three. The Twins are struggling right now and the Royals are coming off a winning road trip and don’t have to face Jose Berrios. It seems like they have a good shot at another series win in this one.