Friday, June 2, 2023

MLB Preview: Chicago Cubs (18-19) at Minnesota Twins (21-17)


CUBS HEAD NORTH: The Chicago Cubs tonight start a nine-game, three-city, 10-day road trip against the Twins … Chicago closed out this week’s series against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field with a 10-4 win Wednesday, staving off a potential season-high four-game losing streak … the Cubs scored at least 10 runs for the seventh time this season, tied for second-most in the majors (Texas, 9 times).

Justin Steele (6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R/ER, 3 BB, 3 SO) got the win on Wednesday, his sixth of the season in his seventh quality start … the outing ended a stretch of 14-straight starts with two or fewer earned runs allowed dating to July 22 of last season … his seven quality starts are tied for most in the majors.

Brad Boxberger made his 500th career appearance Wednesday … he is one of 16 active pitchers to have pitched in at least 500 games.

The Cubs went 10-3 in 13 games from April 4-19, but have gone 7-13 in 20 contests starting April 20.

Tonight is the 14th game (4-9) of a stretch that sees the team on the road for 16 of 22 contests through May 21.

SWANSON GOES FOR MORE: Dansby Swanson recorded six extra-base hits in his last three games (5 doubles, 1 homer) … he is just the second Cubs shortstop in the Modern Era to have six extra-base hits over a three-game span, joining Ernie Banks who did it twice, Aug. 15-17, 1961 and May 22-24, 1958 … thanks to Elias Sports Bureau. © Swanson tallied his six extra-base hits in 14 plate appearances in the just completed series vs. the Cardinals, compared to seven extra-base hits (5 doubles, 2 homers) in his previous 152 plate appearances to start the season.

EXTRA! EXTRA!: The Cubs notched seven extra-base hits Wednesday (5 doubles, 2 home runs) for the first time since April 21 (9 XBH) … the club has recorded multiple homers in consecutive games for the first time since April 16-17.

Yan Gomes on Wednesday went 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBI in his first game back from the 7-day concussion IL, his third game this season with at least three hits … his 11.38 at-bats per home run this season lead all catchers (min. 20 G) and is currently the lowest mark of his career.

Patrick Wisdom blasted his 12th home run of the season Wednesday, tied for second most in the majors, behind Pete Alonso with 13 … among N.L. hitters, he ranks second in slugging percentage (.605) and since 2021 has the second fewest at-bats per home run (14.17), trailing only Kyle Schwarber (12.35).

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: The Cubs have scored at least one run in each of their first 37 games in 2023, just the fourth time in the expansion era (since 1961) the team has gotten on the board in each of its first 37 contests … the longest season-opening streaks in this span: 47 G in 1995, 43 G in 2020 and 40 G in 2012.

Chicago is one of four teams in the majors this season to have scored at least one run in every game played thus far.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: Chicago has reached via walk, hit or HBP 494 times this season, third-most among all clubs, trailing only Tampa Bay (516) and Boston (498) … the Cubs lead the majors with 281 left on base.

Chicago’s 394 plate appearances with RISP are the most in the N.L. and fourth in the majors (Boston leads, 427) … in its last 18 games since April 22 the Cubs have hit .210 (33-for-157) with RISP.

The Cubs have 41 plate appearances with the bases loaded, tied for seventh-most in the majors, but have batted .184 (7-for-38) with no walks, 12 strikeouts and three sac flies in those situations.

CLOSE CALLS ABOUND: Chicago’s last 10 setbacks since April 26 have been by three or fewer runs … the team this season is 6-14 (.300) in games decided by three or fewer runs, including a 2-8 mark in one-run contests … the club’s .200 winning percentage in one-run games is the second-lowest in the major leagues ahead of only St. Louis (1-7/.125).

The Cubs 14 setbacks by three or fewer runs are tied for fourth-most in the majors … conversely, Chicago’s 12 wins by four or more runs rank fourth-most in baseball.

LET’S GO FOR A WALK: Ian Happ ranks second in the N.L. with 29 free passes while teammate Dansby Swanson has coaxed 24 free passes, sixth-most in the Senior Circuit … Swanson’s 24 walks are already nearly half of the 49 free passes he drew in 2022

Trey Mancini on Wednesday vs. St. Louis notched three walks and scored three runs, the first time in his career he has achieved the feat … Cubs players have recorded three walks in a game five times this season, tied for second-most in the majors.

The Cubs have earned 135 free passes this season, seventh-most in the majors.

SOMETHING OF QUALITY: Cubs pitchers have recorded 19 quality starts this season, tied for the most in the majors (also Toronto, Pittsburgh and Minnesota) … Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele both have seven quality starts, tied with Framber Valdez (HOU) and Shane Bieber (CLE), for the league lead.

The Cubs last season recorded their 19th quality start in their 94th game of the season, July 23 at Philadelphia.

WHEN IT’S RIGHT, IT’S RIGHT: Ian Happ has posted a .479 on-base percentage against right-handed pitching this season, the best mark in the majors.

Happ has hit .347 (33-for-95) against right-handed pitching, the fifth-highest mark in the game … Arraez leads with a whopping .409 average.

Starting Pitcher – #11 LHP Drew Smyly (3-1, 3.05)
Last Time Out
Drew received a no-decision May 6 vs. Miami … his 3.1 IP marked his shortest outing of the season and shortest since Oct. 1, 2022 vs. Cincinnati (3.0 IP) … has allowed two runs or fewer in six-straight starts, posting a 1.87 ERA (7 ER/33.2 IP) during the run.

Date Opp. Result IP H R ER BB SO PC-S Left
5/6 MIA ND, 4-2 3.1 3 2 2 3 4 83-50 0-2
2023 Splits and Season Notes
Home 1-0 2.14 4 4 21.0 10 5 5 5 26
Road 2-1 4.15 3 3 17.1 19 9 8 4 8
AVG vs. LHB: .297 (11-for-37) / AVG vs. RHB: .175 (18-for-103)

Drew is scheduled to make his eighth start of the season today, his fourth on the road … has a 1.87 ERA (7 ER/33.2 IP) in his last six starts, allowing two runs or fewer in all six outings … his 1.87 ERA since April 10 is the fifth-lowest in the majors … has a 2.14 ERA (5 ER/21.0 IP) at home, compared to a 4.15 ERA (8 ER/17.1 IP) on the road … is holding opponents to a .207 (29-for-140) average with a 0.99 WHIP this season … opposing batters are hitting .171 (12-for-70) with 25 strikeouts against his curveball.

April 21 vs. Los Angeles (N.L.) retired the first 21 batters of the game, becoming the first Cub to take a perfect game bid into the eighth inning since José Guzmán (April 6, 1993 vs. Atlanta) … was the first Cub to record a start of 7.0-plus innings with one hit, no runs, no walks and at least 10 strikeouts since Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game (May 6, 1998 vs. Houston).

Went 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA (11 ER/16.1 IP) with a 13:2 SO:BB ratio during Cactus League play.


THE TWINS: After completing their last six-game road-trip with a record of 2-4 (1-2 at Chica- go-AL, and 1-2 at Cleveland), the Twins began their six-game Interleague homestand with a 2-1 series win over the Padres this week…tonight, Minnesota will continue the homestand with the first of three against the Cubs through the weekend…the Twins have gone 12-7 at Target Field and 9-10 on the road.

The Twins have gone 7-3 in their last 10 home games.

TWINS TAKE SERIES OVER SAN DIEGO: The Twins beat the Padres yesterday afternoon at Target Field by a score of 5-3, winning the three-game series and improving to 6-5-1 in series play (5-1-0 at Target Field)…Bailey Ober was the starter but did not factor into the decision, allowing three runs on six hits in 6.0 innings pitched, with no walks and six strikeouts… Emilio Pagán, Brock Stewart and Jorge López all combined to pitch 3.0 scoreless innings of relief…the offense recorded six hits, two from Joey Gallo, who singled and doubled…Carlos Correa went 1-for-4 with a go-ahead two-run double with two outs in the seventh inning.

ROTATIONAL PULL: Twins starters have combined to go 14-9, 3.13 ERA (216.0 IP, 75 ER) with 54 walks, 240 strikeouts and a .221 opponent batting average…below are Twins starting pitching ranks in all of baseball:

MIN – 216.0 TB – 2.78 TB – .212 SF – 45 TB – 3.08 MIN – 1.07 MIN – 240 TB – .603
CWS – 211.1 MIN – 3.13 MIN – .221 SEA – 48 SEA – 3.31 TB – 1.09 CWS – 224 MIN – .635
SD – 208.2 ATL – 3.35 NYY – .235 LAD – 53 MIN – 3.33 SEA – 1.11 HOU – 209 SEA – .636
TOR – 207.0 CHC – 3.36 SEA – .235 MIN – 54 ATL – 3.56 TEX – 1.14 NYY – 209 CHC – .661
2 Tied – 206.1 HOU – 3.37 TEX – .235 CLE – 54 HOU – 3.70 CHC – 1.17 TOR – 206 TEX – .673

NOTE: In 2022, the Twins starters finished 27th in baseball in innings, 20th in ERA, 13th in BAA, 25th in walks allowed, 18th in fielding independent pitching, 12th in WHIP, 24th in strikeouts and 16th in OPS.

NATIONAL NEWS: The Twins have gone 4-5 in Interleague Play this season, going 1-2 at Miami from April 3-5, 1-2 vs. Washington from April 21-23 and 2-1 vs. San Diego…after this series, the Twins will continue their IL schedule with three at Los Angeles from Monday-Wednesday.

The Twins went 8-12 against the National League last season…for the first time in 2023, the Twins will play each of the 15 National League teams…Minnesota’s remaining 2023 Interleague home schedule includes Target Field visits from the Giants (May 22-24), Brewers (June 13-14), Diamondbacks (August 4-6), Pirates (August 18-20) and Mets (September 8-10)…the Twins will also play road games at the Dodgers (May 15-17), Braves (June 26-28), Cardinals (August 1-3), Phillies (August 11-13), Brewers (August 22-23), Reds (September 18-20) and Rockies (September 29-October 1).

TWINS-CUBS: The Twins and Cubs are playing each other for the first time since 2021 when they went 2-2…they were swept in two games at Target Field from August 31-September 1 and swept the Cubs in two games at Wrigley Field from September 21-22…the Twins are 17-20 all-time against the Cubs, going 3-5 at Target Field, 8-12 at Wrigley Field and 6-3 at the Metrodome…this series marks the fourth time the Cubs have visited Target Field (2012, 2015 and 2021) as Chicago has won four straight in this ballpark…the last Twins win over the Cubs at Target Field was on June 19, 2015, a 7-2 victory.

Max Kepler is hitting .419 (13-for-31) with three doubles, three home runs, eight RBI and a 1.244 OPS in nine career games vs. the Cubs…he had a two-homer game at Wrigley Field when these two last met on September 22, 2021…additionally, in his last four games vs. the Cubs, he has three three-hit games.

LAND OF 10,000 RAKES: The Twins have homered 47 times on the season, the sixth most in the AL and ninth most in baseball…37 of their home runs have come in their last 26 games since April 13…since that date, their 36 homers are second most in the AL (Tampa Bay – 46) and fifth most in baseball, trailing Tampa (46), Atlanta (44), Los Angeles-NL (40) and San Francisco (38).

Byron Buxton ranks tied for seventh in the AL in homers with eight…among AL players with a minimum of 80 plate appearances, Gallo ranks third in at-bats-per-home run ratio at 11.43, trailing Brent Rooker (10.80) and Luke Raley (11.13).

DON’T STOP RELIEVIN’: Twins relievers have combined to post a .211 opponent batting average, tied with the Cubs for the second lowest in baseball, trailing Tampa Bay (.203)… they have allowed just 97 hits this season, the second fewest in baseball, trailing Texas (96).

The Twins’ ‘pen has held opponents to a .183 average on breaking pitches (8th in baseball).

OK AK: Since being recalled from Triple-A St. Paul, Alex Kirilloff has hit .333 (4-for-12) with six walks, a .556 on-base percentage and an .889 OPS in five games…in his last 15 games between Triple-A (April 18-May 4) and Minnesota (May 6-11), he has combined to hit .320 (16-for-50) with two doubles, three home runs, 13 RBI, 12 walks, a .469 on-base percentage and a 1.009 OPS.

LOW ON LEFTIES: The Twins are facing a left-handed starter for just the seventh time this season, the previous six being Jesús Luzardo on April 5 at Miami (5-2 loss), Nestor Cortes on April 14 at New York-AL (4-3 win), Chris Sale on April 18 at Boston (5-4 loss), Patrick Corbin on April 23 vs. Washington (3-1 win), Cortes again on April 25 (6-2 win) and Logan Allen on May 6 at Cleveland (4-3 loss)…the Twins have the fewest at-bats in baseball vs. left-handed pitching at just 246.

Twins are slashing just .203/.280/.362 vs. lefties, compared to .224/.306/.391 vs. righties.

Jorge Polanco is hitting .467 (7-for-15) with an .800 OPS against left-handed pitching this season.

In his last 37 games against left-handed pitching (since August 9, 2022), Carlos Correa is hitting .314 (22-for-70) with five doubles, one triple, five home runs, 14 RBI, 13 walks, a .407 on-base percentage, a .629 slugging percentage and a 1.036 OPS…however, Correa is 0-for-his-last-11 vs. lefties, his last hit being a single on April 22 vs. Washington’s Anthony Banda.

LATE IN THE GAME ‘LOS: Carlos Correa is hitting .344 (11-for-32) with a .976 OPS in innings 7-9, compared to .127 (7-for-55) with a .450 OPS in innings 1-3 and .167 (7-for-42) with a .405 OPS in innings 4-6…in his last two games, Correa has reached base four times in nine plate appearances overall, with two doubles and three RBI.

2023: 4-0 1.35 ERA CAREER: 94-77, 3.50 ERA

Enters today leading all qualified major league pitchers in ERA…also ranks fourth in FIP (2.11), behind Arizona’s Zac Gallen (1.66),

Atlanta’s Spencer Strider (1.79) and Texas’ Nathan Eovaldi (1.98).

Making his 255th career appearance and 246th career start.

Facing Chicago-NL for the first time this season, 11th in his career; is 4-3, 3.11 ERA (55.0 IP, 19
ER) with 13 walks and 70 strikeouts.

Making eighth start of the year and fifth at home…is 7-2, 2.14 ERA (92.2 IP, 22 ER) with 31
walks and 111 strikeouts in 17 home starts since joining the Twins.

Acquired by the Twins on March 13, 2022 in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, along with righthanded pitcher Francis Peguero, in exchange for right-handed pitcher Chase Petty

LAST TIME OUT: Did not factor into the decision against the Cleveland Guardians on May 6 at Progressive Field…pitched 5.0 innings, allowing three runs on four hits, with three walks and six strikeouts in a 4-3 Twins loss, opposite Logan Allen…marked the first start Gray has allowed more than one run this season…retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced…allowed all three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning…issued a walk to infielder Amed Rosario to start the inning; allowed three consecutive singles (two for RBI, one from designated hitter Josh Naylor followed by another from infielder Josh Bell)…allowed his final run on a bases-loaded walk to outfielder Myles Straw…relieved by Jorge Alcala in the sixth inning…Twins would tie the game off of two home runs (a two-run homer by Max Kepler in the top of the sixth and a solo shot from Carlos Correa in the seventh)…Alcala yielded the winning run to Steven Kwan in the bottom of the seventh for his first home run of the year.

Brought his ERA to 1.35, the fifth lowest in Twins/Senators history in ERA through a pitcher’s first seven starts of a season (since 1913, min. 30.0 IP), trailing only Walter Johnson (0.30 in 1913, 1.00 in 1918 and 1.02 in 1914) and Harry Harper in 1915 (1.35).

TWO STARTS AGO: Earned his fourth win of the season in the series finale against the Kansas City Royals on April 30 at Target Field…pitched 6.0 innings, allowing one run on five hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts in an 8-4 Twins victory, opposite Brady Singer…marked the third time this season he has pitched at least 6.0 innings (also pitched 7.0 innings vs. Houston on April 7 and 7.0 vs. New York-AL on April 24)…yielded his only run on a RBI groundout by Edward Olivares…relieved by Emilio Pagán in the seventh inning as the bullpen combined to pitch 3.0 innings while allowing three runs (two earned)…one run scored on an error by Jorge Polanco in the seventh…Josh Winder allowed a two-RBI single to Vinnie Pasquantino in the ninth.

Allowed one-or-fewer runs and tossed at least 5.0 innings in his first six starts this season, tied with Ervin Santana (April 3- May 2, 2017) for the longest such streak to start the season in Twins/Senators history since 1913.

The start was Gray’s 30th in a Twins uniform…has a 2.56 ERA through his first 30 starts with the Twins, the third lowest ERA within a pitcher’s first 30 career games as a Twin (min. 150.0 IP), behind Scott Erickson (2.31 ERA from June 25, 1990-June 2, 1991) and Dean Chance (2.52 ERA from April 13-August 22 (1), 1967).

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE: Gray is the only pitcher in the majors who has yet to allow a home run this season (min. 40.0 IP)…is the fifth pitcher in Twins history to allow zero home runs through their first seven games…the longest streak from a Twins starter is Frankie Rodriguez at eight games and 45.1 IP in 1995.

AGAINST CHICAGO-NL: Gray is facing the Cubs for the 11th time in his career, going 4-3, 3.11 ERA (55.0 IP, 19 ER) with 13 walks and 70 strikeouts in his 10 previous appearances…last faced Chicago-NL on September 6, 2021 at Wrigley Field, taking the 4-3 Reds loss after allowing two runs on three hits (1 HR) with eight strikeouts in 5.0 innings…was relieved in the sixth inning by Lucas Sims as the bullpen combined to pitch 3.0 innings.

Ranks fifth in lowest ERA (3.11) against the Cubs since 2016 (min. 50.0 IP), trailing Joe Musgrove (2.05), Miles Mikolas (2.18), Jacob DeGrom (2.29) and Brent Suter (2.73)…is tied for 11th for the most strikeouts (70) against the Cubs, alongside Jacob DeGrom. AHas made six starts against the Cubs at home…is 3-1, 2.12 ERA (34.0 IP, 8 ER) with seven walks and 41 strikeouts in those starts…holding a three-game win streak against the Cubs at home…is 3-0, 1.13 ERA (24.0 IP, 3 ER) with seven walks and 32 strikeouts in the four-game span.

His .183 opponent batting average vs. the Cubs is his third lowest against any opponent in his career.

Gray is 12-8, 3.43 ERA (186.1 IP, 71 ER) with 60 walks and 183 strikeouts in 32 career Interleague games (31 starts).

HOME SWEET HOME: Gray is making his fifth home start of the season tonight, going 3-0, 0.72 ERA (25.0 IP, 2 ER) with six walks, 33 strikeouts and a .172 (15-for-87) opponent batting average in his four prior home outings…went 4-3, 2.66 ERA (67.2 IP, 20 ER) with 25 walks and 78 strikeouts in 13 home starts in 2022 and is 53-38, 3.74 ERA (753.1 IP, 33 ER) with 253 walks and 734 strikeouts in 133 career home appearances, including 129 starts.

Is 7-2, 2.14 ERA (92.2 IP, 22 ER) with 31 walks and 111 strikeouts in 17 home starts since becoming a Twin…ranks second for the most strikeouts in their first 17 home starts in Twins/ Senators history, trailing Dave Boswell (114 in 1964), ranks eighth in lowest ERA (min. 90 IP).

Ranks fourth in lowest home ERA this season, trailing Arizona’s Zac Gallen (0.33), Detroit’s Eduardo Rodriguez (0.42) and Los Angeles-NL’s Clayton Kershaw (0.45)…ranks 10th for the most home strikeouts.

THE ARSENAL: Gray is currently using a six-pitch mix, per Baseball Savant…continues to use his curveball the most at 26.0 percent…primarily uses his curveball (107 pitches) and changeup (419pitches) against lefties and his cutter (104 pitches), sinker (88 pitches) and sweeper (91 pitches) against righties…allowed his first hit off his changeup in his last start on May 5…here’s a look at his repertoire so far:

Curveball (79.0)…………………….26.0% (169 pitches, 62/107)…………… .176 (6-for-34), 3 2B, 11 K
Cutter (87.5) …………………………19.9% (129 pitches, 104/25)…………….. .167 (4-for-26), 1 2B, 5 K
4-Seam Fastball (92.6)……………16.0% (104 pitches, 33/71)……………… .368 (7-for-19), 2 2B, 2 K
Sinker (92.4) …………………………..15.3% (99 pitches, 88/11)………………. .240 (6-for-25), 2 2B, 9 K
Sweeper (83.2)…………………………14.9% (97 pitches, 91/6)……………… .152 (5-for-33), 2 2B, 19 K
Changeup (87.1)……………………….7.9% (51 pitches, 2/49)…………………………. .091 (1-for-11), 1 K

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