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Series Preview: The Division-leading (???) Twins!

The Blue Jays went through a lot of ups and downs during their three-game series against the Rays. From moonshot home runs in game one, to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. forgetting how to throw the ball to first base, the Blue Jays are definitely ready for a change of scenery after this past series.

Prepare yourself before you read this, the DIVISION-LEADING Twins are coming into this series following a sweeping of the Tigers in their shortened two-game series. The Blue Jays pitching will be tested in this series as the Twins offense currently ranks second in the AL in BA, OBP, SLG and OPS. While the Blue Jays offense should get tested in this series, this series should give the Blue Jays an opportunity to limit their strikeouts.

They currently sit second in the AL in whiffs, while the Twins pitching staff is tied for last in the AL at creating strikeouts. So hopefully we will finally see a decline in strikeouts following this four-game series.

Monday at 7: 40 ET

The most-popular shoemaker in Canada will get the ball in game one of this series against the Twins. Matt Shoemaker will look to improve off his 3-0 record in what has been a fantastic start to the season for him. In his three starts this season, he’s recorded an ERA of 0.92 and a 0.712 WHIP. What’s been most surprising about Shoemaker through three games is his H/9. The 32-year-old currently holds a H/9 of 4.12, which ranks second in the American League in that category. The Twins currently rank fifth in the AL in SLG%, so we might see his ERA actually jump above 1.00 after this start.

Martin Perez will finally be let out of the bullpen to make his first start of the season. Perez has already appeared in three games this season, all from out of the pen. The long-time Texas Ranger has yet to make a positive impression with his new team so far this season, and that could prove to be a big advantage for the Blue Jays in this game. Perez has surrendered eleven hits and nine walks in 8.1 innings pitched this season. So that could translate into another productive game at the plate for the Blue Jays.

Tuesday at 7:40 ET

Aaron Sanchez likely of had to participate in a lot of stress relief related activities after his last start against the Red Sox. That start in Boston last Thursday got very ugly after the Blue Jays committed a few defensive mishaps that sparked the Red Sox to overcome the 5-0 deficit. Sanchez will need to turn his focus towards pitching beyond the fifth inning, which he has only done once this season. He will also look to improve off his 1.69 ERA, 1.375 WHIP and 16 strikeouts through 16 innings this season.

The Twins will go with Kyle Gibson in game two of this series. Gibson last pitched on April 9 against the Mets, where he pitched in 4.2 innings and gave up six hits, three runs, two home runs, three walks along with recording six strikeouts. This was the second time this season where Gibson has given up six or more hits in a outing. Just like with Perez in game one, this could be another opportunity for the Blue Jays to be productive at the plate.

Wednesday at 7:40 ET

Trent Thornton was nearly flawless coming into his latest start against the Rays. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old got absolutely pounded against the Rays lineup last Friday. Thornton was chased after three innings of work, after he was blown up for eight hits, five runs, three home runs(two of which landed in the 500 level) and a pair of walks. Following his worst-start at the major-league level, Thornton will look to bounce back in his fourth-career start  tathe major-league level.

Jake Odorizzi will take the mound in game three for the Twins. Following Odorizzi’s dominate start against the Indians back on March 30, he has pitched a combined 5.1 innings in two games and surrendered seven earned runs and seven walks. While he’s only given up three hits over that same span, the walks have been the biggest issue with Odorizzi in his last two starts. The Blue Jays are currently tied for tenth in the AL in walks. So this should provide their offense with a great opportunity for them to improve in that area.

Thursday at 1:10 ET

I think it’s safe to say that Clay Buchholz completely shocked almost everyone in his Blue Jays’ debut. After the Rays dropped eleven runs in game one of the series, Buchholz came out and held them to just one run. The 34-year-old was excellent with the location of his pitches in the six innings that he pitched in. Buchholz did allow six hits, which is a little more than ideal.

But he was able to get out of those situations because of the effectiveness of his pitches. That same effectiveness is what led to Buchholz not allowing any walks in that start as well. This will be another good test for Buchholz as this Twins team has scored a combined ten runs in their last two games.

Michael Pineda (aka. Pine-Tar) will get the ball in the finale of this series. The 30-year-old is in his first season back after Tommy John surgery forced him to miss all of last season. Pine-Tar appears to be pitching better than ever coming off his surgery. In three starts this season, Pineda has recorded a 3.00 ERA, a 1.000 WHIP, 15 whiffs along with only allowing a pair of walks. So while the Blue Jays are lucky they won’t have to face the Twins’ ace in Jose Berrios this series, Pineda could prove to be almost as tough to face against.