The Cubs haven’t faced the Twins since 2021, so here’s all you need to know about them from Benjamin Jones, managing editor of our SB Nation Twins site Twinkie Town.
These Minnesota Twins are not your parents’ Twins, but probably not for the reason you’re expecting. They’re in first place in a weak A.L. Central, but in a big change for the team, they’re doing it on the backs of their starting pitchers. The starters are second in MLB in ERA, second in FIP, second in K/9, third in BB/9, and first in Win Probability Added. Every single time they take the mound, they’re giving the Twins a chance to win.
They don’t have a true ace on the staff, but the trio of Pablo López, Sonny Gray, and Joe Ryan have been as good as any in the league. The Cubs will see Gray and Ryan, who deserve a lot of credit for their work in the off-season to improve. Ryan has a sneaky but dominant fastball, but had no reliable secondaries to back it up last year. This year he improved his split change and added a sweeper that has helped him take another step forward. Gray has seen similar improvement with his secondary pitches, which is even more impressive for a guy like him that has been around for a while. He’s been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball to start the year, which is great news for both the Twins and Gray, as he’s in a contract year.
The offense is a completely different story, and a far cry from the Bomba Squad 2019 team that set a MLB record for home runs in a season. The bats have been lethargic to start the year, to say the least, with much of that blame falling on Carlos Correa’s shoulders. He’s been hitting the ball hard, but has run into plenty of bad luck with just a .191 batting average so far this year. He’s owned up to his failings, but it’s only a matter of time before he comes around, and is showing some signs he’s breaking out of his slump already. Byron Buxton, confined to DH duty for the time being, clobbered the ball to start the season but has been in a rut for the past week or so.
The team is never going to achieve their goals with Correa hitting that poorly, but the Twins’ issues are encapsulated by two players: Jose Miranda and Trevor Larnach. These two were the Twins’ opening day third baseman and left fielder, respectively, and were supposed to be fixtures in the middle of the lineup. Miranda especially after a strong rookie campaign. But Miranda can’t stop beating the ball into the ground and Larnach can’t hit offspeed pitches. They were both just demoted to Triple A in the last week due to their offensive struggles.
The good news is that Correa can’t keep getting this unlucky forever, and the Twins have help on the way. Former top prospect Alex Kirilloff is finally healthy and should hit cleanup against the righties this weekend. Jorge Polanco has looked like his usual, solid self since returning from a season-starting IL trip. And Byron Buxton, though he’s exclusively a DH for the time being, still has the power and speed combo to single-handedly win a couple games for the Twins, as he’s already shown.
That being said, I think I’d still expect the Twins to take two of the three games. If the Cubs can get to the starters early, the Twins don’t have the firepower to keep up. But with Gray and Ryan both going in this series, the Twins are set up well even if they continue to struggle offensively.
This was the Cubs’ batting order the last time they lost a game at Minnesota:
Dexter Fowler CF, Anthony Rizzo 1B, Kris Bryant 3B, Miguel Montero C, Starlin Castro SS, Chris Coghlan LF, Chris Denorfia RF, Kyle Schwarber DH, Addison Russell 2B
The date was June 19, 2015. The Twins rapped 11 hits off Kyle Hendricks in 5 innings plus 3 batters and came away with a 7-2 win. The Cubs took the final two games of that weekend series, 4-1 and 8-0.
In their only visit to Target Field since then, on August 31 and September 1, 2021, the Cubs won by 3-1 and 3-0.
The four straight wins are tied for the second most by the Cubs at any American League park.
They won four in a row on the south side of Chicago in 2006-07, have won their last four at Seattle, two in 2013 and two in 2019 and have an active 6-game streak at Oakland. (All courtesy BCB’s JohnW53.)
Probable pitching matchups
Friday: Drew Smyly, LHP (3-1, 3.05 ERA, 0.991 WHIP, 3.80 FIP) vs. Sonny Gray, RHP (4-0, 1.35 ERA, 1.100 WHIP, 2.09 FIP)
Saturday: Hayden Wesneski, RHP (2-1, 3.93 ERA, 1.282 WHIP, 4.99 FIP) vs. Joe Ryan, RHP (5-1, 2.45 ERA, 0.841 WHIP, 2.83 FIP)
Sunday: Marcus Stroman, RHP (2-3, 2.28 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, 3.42 FIP) vs. Louie Varland, RHP (0-0, 4.32 ERA, 1.380 WHIP, 4.93 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Friday: 7:10 p.m. CT, Apple TV+ (how to watch)
Saturday: 1:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
Sunday: 1:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
Wellllll... I dunno. The Twins were supposed to be good and, like the Cubs, got off to a hot start. After beating the Yankees April 14, they were 10-4. They’re 11-13 since then, although they have defeated the Yankees four times this year. I mention that because since 2001, the Twins are 51-108 vs. the Yankees, which is just... bizarre. The last time the Twins beat the Yankees four times in a year before now was 2008.
Oh, yes, anyway, the Cubs. The Cubs just need to continue to pitch well. These pitching matchups seem good enough for the Cubs to take two of three.
The Cubs travel to Houston to face the Astros in a three-game series which begins Monday evening.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Twins?
This poll is closed