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Up Next: Blue Jays face Twins for first time since last year’s Wild Card series

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Photo credit:Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Georges
1 month ago
Facing perhaps the two hottest teams in the Major Leagues back-to-back is no easy assignment, but that’s exactly where the Blue Jays find themselves this week.
After splitting a mid-week two-game series in Philadelphia, the Blue Jays return home to host the Minnesota Twins, winners of 15 of their last 17 games. The Twins are coming off an 11-1 drubbing of the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, while the Jays had the day off. Former Blue Jays prospect Simeon Woods Richardson, who was traded away in the Jose Berrios deal – will face the Blue Jays for the first time on Saturday afternoon.

Nuts and Bolts:

Twins record: 22-15 (11-7 on road)
Friday, May 10th, 7:07 PM EST: Joe Ryan (1-2, 3.54) vs Yusei Kikuchi (2-2, 2.72)
Saturday, May 11th, 3:07 PM EST: Simon Woods Richardson (1-0, 1.74) vs Kevin Gausman (2-3, 3.78)
Sunday, May 12th, 1:37 PM EST: Bailey Ober (3-1, 4.42) vs Alek Manoah (0-0, 13.50)

Starting Pitching

The Twins’ rotation has been anchored by Pablo Lopez and Joe Ryan this year, the former of which the Jays should be lucky not to see in this series. The Cabimas, Venezuela native has a 3.89 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 55 punchouts in just 44.0 innings so far this season. Ryan has been similarly good, with a better ERA (3.54) and slightly worse WHIP (1.01). Ryan’s alignment with Yusei Kikuchi on Friday night appears to be the best pitching matchup of the series.
The duo of Chris Paddack and Bailey Ober have each made seven starts, with solid yet unspectacular results. The X factor in this rotation going forward may be Woods Richardson, who took the rotation spot of struggling Louie Varland and ran with it. The former Blue Jays prospect has allowed just four earned runs across four starts, good for a 1.74 ERA and 1.06 WHIP on the season.

Bullpen

The Twins bullpen has been fairly solid this year, ranking 10th in the Major Leagues with a 3.51 team ERA. That should only improve as they now have their dominant closer, Jhoan Duran, active, as he’s been on the shelf with an oblique strain since Spring Training. Duran has converted all three of his save opportunities since returning, having yet to allow a run and giving up just two baserunners through 5.0 innings.
Part of the closer-by-committee that Minnesota employed while Duran was hurt involved Griffin Jax, who has been a heavily relied-upon reliever for the club, orchestrating a 2.70 ERA across 18 games thus far. Cole Sands has been another guy who has really impressed, with a 2.76 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 23 punchouts in 16.1 IP so far this season. fellow righthander Brock Stewart has the lowest ERA of the bunch, with an 0.68 ERA to go along with a 1.05 WHIP.
The lefthanders that make up the Twins bullpen include Kody Funderburk, Steven Okert, and Caleb Thielbar. Each of these relievers has had some mixed outings so far, with all of them sporting a WHIP above 1.50. Going forward, having a more reliable lefty reliever will be important for this team as the season continues.

Hitting

The Twins rank 8th in the Majors in OPS thanks in large part to catcher/DH Ryan Jeffers. Jeffers is leading the club in doubles, homers, RBI, as well as OPS. The 26-year-old appears to be in the midst of a breakout year and will look to build on his .859 OPS through 96 games from a year ago.
Another guy who has shown flashes for the Twins has been Canadian second baseman Edouard Julien. His walk rate remains elite at 14.5%, and his seven homers trail Jeffers by one. However, a 34.1% strikeout rate has kept his batting average at just .205, which has limited his production.
Another guy worth highlighting is former Detroit Tiger infielder Willi Castro. He currently leads the squad in hits and steals, and sports a solid .797 OPS. Longtime Twin Max Kepler missed some games due to injury early on, but has hit well ever since, bopping three homers and sporting a gaudy .952 OPS.

Bottom Line

The Jays will have to do their best to slow down another hot team when they face the Twins this weekend. As mentioned earlier, they are fortunate to avoid facing Lopez, but will undoubtedly be in for some tough games. Winning two out of three would be a big step in the right direction towards gaining momentum for the rest of the month.

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