Series Preview: Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals
Any baseball writer or “expert” could have predicted the outcome of the first two games of the Yankees-Royals Series. CC Sabathia notches another victory closer to his Cy Young caliber year. AJ Burnett found his grove again. Rivera, Jeter, A-Rod and company did everything that is expected of the defending world champs. The Royals notched a victory against Pettite’s replacement (Mitre) while keeping Rodriguez in the park. After a weather delay, the Yankees did what they are expected to do with a nine-figure team salary team, win.
The Royals were outmatched in pitching, defense, and offense. There was not enough timely hitting or timely defense. The Yankees took advantage of the miscues and put games the games away early. The Royals will attempt to get back on track against a team that has been a nemesis for the franchise since day one (The Royals won the first one in 1969 by a score of 4-3). The Twins this year are again in the hunt for a playoff spot or a shot at the division title. Joe Mauer is having an off year but hasn’t had to have a typical Mauer year in order for the twins to stay in contention.
Game 1: Liriano (8-7) vs. Greinke (6-9)
At the beginning of the season if you asked me about where these two pitchers’ records would like at this point in the season I would have told you Greinke would have ten victories under his belt and Liriano would have about the same record he has right now. But due to poor run support and too many early season mistake pitches by Greinke has led him to his .400 winning percentage on the season. Going into this game, both pitchers are coming off strong performances and notching another win for their respective teams.
Last Season Liriano had two starts against the Royals and hand cuffed them both times. Between the two games the Royals managed only seven hits in thirty-five at bats. He struck out nine and walked only four. If you were to combine his stats against the Royals since 2006 he has held the Royals to a .271 batting average in six appearances while striking out thirty-three. The Twins have kept him around even though last season he was one of the leagues most ineffective starters with a 5-13 record. Their belief in that he was better than that must have worked because he has nearly double the wins that he had all of last year.
If you were to look at who Greinke has struggled against the most during his young career, it would probably be the Twins. In his one start against them this year he was anything but effective. He gave up fifteen hits, six walks and ten runs. During the same time frame as Liriano, he has ten appearances against the Twins. He has managed only forty-six strikeouts while allowing the Twins to rack up sixty-one hits for a combined team batting average of .292. In order for him to start changing this negative mark on his record, he’s going to have to make sure each pitch is where he needs it to be and not in the sweet part of the strike zone.
Game 2: Pavano (12-6) vs. Chen (5-4)
Pavano has been on fire since the beginning of June with his start against the Royals. He has gone a perfect 7-0, including his victory against the boys in blue on June 9th. He has an impressive strikeout to walk ratio this year as well (nearly 4 ½ to 1). He has three starts against the Royals this year and the Royals have hit him well. He has given up twenty-one hits for a .292 batting average. This will be his second start at Kauffman this year. His first start in KC was by far his best performance against them this year. He gave up only four hits, zero walks while striking out five.
Bruce Chen has had two appearances against the Twinkies this year and has been less than stellar. He has given up eleven hits in thirty at-bats for a .367 batting average. He has however, held Mauer and Morneau to only one hit each so far this season. If he can expand his success to more than just the two best hitters in the Twins lineup he will give the Royals a fighting chance against one of the hottest pitchers in baseball.
Game 3: Duensing (3-1) vs. Bannister (7-9)
Duensing has been a solid relief pitcher for the Twins this season and is getting the chance to make his second start this season. He has an impressive 1.69 ERA in forty appearances and his opponents have managed a dismal .214 average. In his most recent appearance he went five innings and gave up only one earned run. One of the few teams that he has struggled against this year has been the Royals. In twenty at-bats this season the Royals have managed six hits and a walk, including one home run against him.
Bannister, like Greinke struggled in his start earlier this season against the Twins. He gave up nine hits in twenty six at-bats, walked two and struck out zero. Four of those hits went for extra bases, including a Morneau solo home run. Bannister has not won a decision since June 23rd against the Nationals. He’s lost to the White Sox twice and in his most recent start he received a “Bronx bombing.” He has given up twenty home runs in twenty starts this year. If he wants to help his team win, he has got to keep the ball down in the zone and induce ground balls.
The Royals offense did manage to dent the Yankees formidable pitching but was unable to break it. Despite the lack of timely hitting the Royals are still leading the Majors in team batting average. The Twins are right behind them at number two going into the series. The Royals may have more hits than the Twins but the Twins have forty-four more extra base hits than the Royals so far this season. However the Royals can make up for their lack of power by using their speed and smart runners. The Royals have stolen sixty-six bases versus the Twins forty-one.
After watching three of the games on television the Royals had against the Yankees, I can see partially why the Royals lose close games, defensive miscues. Errors that aren’t counted in the scorebook, but if I were the coach I would bring it up in the post game team meeting. Throwing to the wrong base or not turning an easy double play. The Twins have the best defense in baseball. They have only had thirty-four errors and have a fielding percentage of .991. In order for the Royals to get guys on, they had better “hit’em where they ain’t.” Despite the injury to DeJesus, when he comes back next season his errorless streak will still be intact.
Greinke starts off another season for the Royals. He has a chance to again improve upon not only his current season record but begin to erase some black marks on his career when he has faced the Twins. The Royals are going to have to take what the Twins pitching will give them and steal bases when given the opportunity. Putting pressure on a pitcher by running is the same as a good blitz in football on the quarterback.
The Royals are at home but are coming off a very disappointing series against the best team in baseball. The Twins are in the middle of a road trip and will be traveling about the same distance the Royals are after Sunday’s games. The Royals will definitely miss DeJesus in the line up and in the field for the rest of the season. He is one of the Royals that has had a large amount of success against Twins pitching. Last year he batted .412 and so far this year managed a .351 batting average. Maybe he can funnel his success and his tips to the rest of his teammates for the rest of the season.