Twins - Royals Series Preview

SEASON MAY ALREADY HANG IN THE BALANCE FOR MINNESOTA TWINS AS THEY VISIT KANSAS CITY

The Minnesota Twins have been a great story so far in the 2015 Major League Baseball season. They were supposed to be the worst the worst team in the league (by at least five games!). Yet, they enter the July Fourth weekend smack dab in the middle of the pennant race. They're within striking distance of the first place Kansas City Royals in their own AL Central. And, they're grouped with a bunch of Wildcard contenders for the two bonus spots in the AL brackets.

Unfortunately, the holiday weekend brings four ROAD games against the league leading Royals. Anything less than a split, and it's going to be very hard to Twins to keep hanging around.

1-3 or 0-4...and

*The Twins would lose sight of the Royals in the divisional race. They would be so far back that it would take weeks to catch KC from behind unless the Royals had a long slump. We've talked about this in past seasons. If you go 6-4 every 10 games...and the team you're chasing goes 5-5...it takes almost two months to make up seven games in the standings. And, that leading team doesn't often go just 5-5 every 10 games!

*The Twins would fall to the back end of an enormous pack of teams who have legitimate Wildcard hopes. The Twins are basically interchangeable right now record-wise with the four-best teams in the AL East, Detroit in their own division, and then the LA Angels and Texas Rangers in the West. Somebody from that group is likely to catch fire the rest of the way. A few somebodies.

Can Minnesota rise to the occasion this weekend? Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about the series...

OFFENSE
Minnesota: 4.26 runs per game, .304 on-base, .392 slugging
Kansas City: 4.28 runs per game, .320 on-base, .405 slugging

Kansas City has the better on-base and slugging numbers, which suggests Minnesota has been a bit lucky to match them in run production. Going forward, edge to the Royals.

THURSDAY'S PITCHERS
Kyle Gibson: 3.30 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 5.6 K-Rate, 6.2 IP-per-Start
Chris Young: 2.71 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 5.8 K-Rate, 5.9 IP-per-Start

Gibson is falling back to earth after a great start. His ERA is up about three-fourths of a run over his last five outings. Young has thrown three quality starts in his last four. But, he does get hit hard when opposing bats connect. He's not as good as those stats would suggest. He's sustained effectiveness longer than his critics had expected, though. Probably a wash in terms of game-day skill sets...as those guys will trend toward similar spots in larger sample sizes in those key categories.

FRIDAY'S PITCHERS
Tommy Milone: 3.19 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 5.9 K-Rate, 6.0 IP-per-Start
Jeremy Guthrie: 5.68 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 4.7 K-Rate, 5.5 IP-per-Start

Four straight quality starts for Milone, who has knocked about a-run-and-a-half off his ERA over the past few weeks. It's amazing how the Twins keep finding low strikeout guys who can live on the edges and get the job done. Low payroll franchises weren't supposed to make that work! Guthrie is still about 50/50 to have a quality start. He's been better than those overall stats would suggest because his bad outings are REALLY bad. He typically isn't that big a nightmare. But, you have to give an edge to Milone in the matchup.

SATURDAY'S PITCHERS
Mike Pelfrey: 3.81 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 4.3 K-Rate, 5.8 IP-per-Start
Joe Blanton: 3.14 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 8.2 K-Rate, 4.6 IP-per-Start

Pelfrey has six quality starts in his last eight outings, but he was absolutely obliterated in those other two! A common story with these types of pitchers. They give their teams a chance to win more often than is realized...but their ugly outings are really ugly. Blanton's only made three starts. His ERA and WHIP would climb much higher if he had to start all the time. Getting hit hard in Houston followed two decent outings. If he can tread water in his home games, the team will be happy. Might be a spot to look at the Over given Pelfrey's WHIP and Blanton's likelihood of turning back into a pumpkin soon.

SUNDAY'S PITCHERS
Ervin Santana: Season debut
Danny Duffy: 5.44 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 7.2 K-Rate 4.9 IP-per-Start

Santana's 80-game suspension is coming to an end (he tested positive for a steroid). If he can throw to career norms, the Twins just might hang around the pennant race for awhile! He signed a four-year contract for $54 million in the offseason...meaning he's supposed to provide just what's needed at just the right time. How rusty will he be after his minor league tune-ups? Duffy has struggled badly over his last five starts. He's allowed 29 hits in 21 innings! That's not going to get the job done. The Royals have room to be patient...but even they won't accept something that awful leading up to their stellar bullpen. Either think about the Twins or look Over.

JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one big play in this huge AL Central showdown this weekend. You can always purchase Baseball BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Remember to ask about early-bird football!

We head to the National League tomorrow to look at a potential playoff preview. Then, it's back to weekend football for our summer series of college conference previews. Here's what's on tap in the NOTEBOOK...

Friday: MLB Series Preview...San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals
Saturday: College Football Preview...Conference USA "East"
Sunday: College Football Preview...Conference USA "West"
Monday: MLB Notes
Wednesday: MLB TV Preview
Thursday: MLB Series Preview...St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates

In terms of Minnesota/KC...what a HUGE series for the Twins! If they can go at least 2-2, with Santana providing a spark and a potential staff ace for the second half of the season...their story could continue to be a market shocker. In terms of Las Vegas betting...JIM HURLEY has been a staff ace for decades! Link up with NETWORK and GET THE MONEY!

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