Wednesday, May 31, 2023
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MLB Preview: Chicago Cubs (19-20) at Minnesota Twins (22-18)


FINALE IN THE LAND OF 10,000 LAKES: The Chicago Cubs today wrap up the three-game set against Minnesota and the first leg of a nine-game, three-city, 10-day road trip … Chicago yesterday dropped the second game against the Twins 11-1, after an 81-minute rain delay … the Cubs today look to pick up the first road series win since April 17-19 at Oakland.

Following today’s contest, Chicago heads to Houston for three games (starting tomorrow) then Philadelphia for three more (starting Friday), with an off-day in between the two sets.

The Cubs went 10-3 in 13 games from April 4-19, but have gone 8-14 in 22 contests starting April 20.

Today is the 16th game (5-10) of a stretch that sees the team on the road for 16 of 22 contests through May 21.

LUCKY NUMBER 7: The Cubs Friday scored five runs in the seventh inning or later to earn the come-from-behind win over the Twins … Chicago has scored 69 runs in the seventh inning or later, fifth-most in the league … the team’s .366 OBP paces the majors and the .275 batting average (122-for-443) in the last third of the game ranks second.

Chicago’s hurlers have pitched to a 3.85 ERA (49 ER/114.2 IP) and a .219 opponent batting average, both good for second-best in the N.L.

THE HOME RUNS GIVETH AND TAKETH: Yesterday Cubs pitching surrendered five homers in a game for the first time this season … they are one of 11 teams to have done so at least once this season … the Cubs also hit five long balls in a game, April 14 at the Dodgers (W 8-2), and are now one of four teams to have both hit and allowed five home runs in a game, joining Oakland (1 G hit, 1 G allowed), San Diego (1 G hit, 1 G allowed) and San Francisco (3 G hit, 1 G allowed).

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: The Cubs have scored at least one run in each of their first 39 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 39 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.

Below is a look at how each Cubs team stacks up through the first 39 games of their season-opening streaks with at least one run scored:

Year Record Win % R RA
2023 19-20 .487 190 148
2020 23-16 .590 185 168
2012 15-24 .385 145 173
1995 22-17 .564 185 170

WHEN IT’S RIGHT, IT’S RIGHT: Ian Happ has posted a .492 on-base percentage against right-handed pitching this season, the best mark in the majors.

Happ has hit .363 (37-for-102) against right-handed pitching, the third-highest mark in the game … Arraez leads with a .386 average.

SOMETHING OF QUALITY: Cubs pitchers have recorded 20 quality starts this season, tied for the most in the majors (also Toronto, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Minnesota) … 10 of Chicago’s quality starts came in the last 16 games, dating to April 28 … the Cubs are tied for the lead in the majors in quality starts in the span, however have the fourth lowest win percentage (.333).

The Cubs last season recorded their 20th quality start in their 95th game of the season, July 24 at Philadelphia.

Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele both have seven quality starts, tied with Framber Valdez (HOU), Shane Bieber (CLE) and Joe Ryan (MIN), for the league lead.

SWANSON GOES FOR MORE: Dansby Swanson recorded six extra-base hits in the three game series against the Cardinals Monday-Wednesday (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 has tallied his six extra-base hits in 23 plate appearances, compared to seven extra-base hits (5 doubles, 2 homers) in his previous 152 plate appearances to start the season.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: Chicago has reached via walk, hit or HBP 522 times this season, third-most among all clubs, trailing only Tampa Bay (548) and Boston (523) … the Cubs lead the majors with 301 left on base.

Chicago’s 418 plate appearances with RISP are the most in the N.L. and fourth in the majors (Boston leads, 448) … in its last 20 games since April 22 the Cubs have hit .209 (37-for-177) with RISP.

The Cubs have 42 plate appearances with the bases loaded, tied for seventh-most in the majors, but have batted .179 (7-for-38) with no walks, 13 strikeouts and three sac flies in those situations.

LET’S GO FOR A WALK: Ian Happ ranks second in the N.L. with 31 free passes while teammate Dansby Swanson has coaxed 26 free passes, tied for fifth-most in the Senior Circuit … Swanson’s 26 walks are already over half of the 49 free passes he drew in 2022.

The Cubs have earned 146 free passes this season, seventh-most in the majors

Starting Pitcher – #0 RHP Marcus Stroman (2-3, 2.28)
Last Time Out
Marcus suffered his third loss of the season May 8 vs. St. Louis … seven of his eight
outings in 2023 have been quality starts … dating to Aug. 30, 2022, has posted a
2.22 ERA (22 ER/89.1 IP) in 15 starts … has received three or fewer runs of support
in seven-straight starts.

Date Opp. Result IP H R ER BB SO PC-S Left
5/8 STL L, 1-3 6.0 4 2 2 1 6 89-59 1-2

2023 Splits and Season Notes
Home 2-3 2.79 5 5 29.0 20 9 9 10 31
Road 0-0 1.46 2 2 12.1 8 2 2 4 8
AVG vs. LHB: .193 (16-for-83) / AVG vs. RHB: .200 (17-for-85)

Marcus is scheduled to make his ninth start of the 2023 season tonight, his third on the road … dating to Aug. 30, 2022, has allowed two runs or fewer in 12 of his last 15 starts, pitching to a 2.22 ERA (22 ER/89.1 IP), the second-lowest ERA in the majors during that span (min. 15 GS) … his seven quality starts are tied for the major league lead this season and his 16 such outings since the All-Star break of last season are tied for fourth-most in the MLB. © Recorded his 1,000th career strikeout April 23 vs. Los Angeles (N.L.), retiring Freddie Freeman looking in the third inning.

Became the second Cubs starting pitcher since 1901 (also Jake Arrieta, 2016) with three outings of at least 6.0 scoreless innings in the team’s first 16 games.

Became the third Cubs starting pitcher since 1901 to allow two or fewer combined runs over his first four starts of a season (also Steve Stone, 1976; Jason Hammel, 2016).

Posted a 14.0-inning scoreless streak to begin the season, the fourth-longest by a Cubs pitcher since 1901.

Made his third career Opening Day start March 30 vs. Milwaukee (0 ER/6.0 IP), earning the win … improved to 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA (3 ER/21.0 IP) in his three career Opening Day starts.

In three Cactus League starts with the Cubs, went 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA (1 ER/10.0 IP) and 10 strikeouts.

Made two starts for Team Puerto Rico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, posting a 3.00 ERA (3 ER/9.0 IP).


THE TWINS: The Twins have gone 3-2 through five games on their six-game homestand, going 2-1 against San Diego this week, followed by a split of the first two games against the Cubs on Friday and Saturday…this afternoon, Minnesota will complete the homestand with the three-game series finale against Chicago-NL…after the game, the Twins will travel to southern California to begin a six-game, seven-day roadtrip with three against the Dodgers from Monday-Wednesday, followed by an off-day Thursday, then play three against the Angels in Anaheim from Friday-Sunday…the Twins have gone 13-8 at Target Field and 9-10 on the road. AThe Twins have gone 9-4 in their last 13 home games.

The Twins have gone 2-3 in rubber games this season.

TWINS GO FISHING WHILE RYAN COLLECTS THE K’s: The Twins beat the Cubs yesterday after- noon at Target Field by a score of 11-1…Joe Ryan (6-1) was the starter and winner, pitching 6.0 shutout innings with four hits allowed, one walk and 10 strikeouts…the 10 strikeouts
matched a season-high and fell one short of his career high of 11, done on September 22, 2021 at Wrigley Field…the offense recorded 13 hits, eight going for extra bases (5 home runs and 3 doubles)…the home runs were from Joey Gallo (8), Alex Kirilloff (1, 2), Carlos Correa (6) and Jorge Polanco (3)…the attendance was 32,270, marking Target Field’s second highest this season (38,465 – Home Opener on April 7 vs. Houston).

Through the two Cubs games, the Twins have drawn 62,307 for an average of 31,153. AWith yesterday’s 11-1 victory, the Twins have now won two Interleague games in one season by at least 10 runs for the first time…the other was also an 11-1 victory on April 3 at Miami.

RELIEVERS RELAXING: Twins starters have thrown an MLB-best 227.1 innings pitched… they have averaged 5.7 innings-per-outing, up from 4.8 in 2022…they have combined to go 15-9, 3.01 ERA (227.1 IP, 76 ER) with 56 walks, 259 strikeouts and a .220 opponent batting average…below are Twins starting pitching ranks in all of baseball:

MIN – 227.1 TB – 2.94 TB – .214 SF – 47 MIN – 3.15 MIN – 1.06 MIN – 259 TB – .618
CWS – 222.0 MIN – 3.01 MIN – .220 SEA – 49 TB – 3.28 SEA – 1.09 CWS – 234 SEA – .626
TOR – 221.2 HOU – 3.27 SEA – .231 LAD – 54 SEA – 3.30 TB – 1.11 ATL – 217 MIN – .628
SD – 220.1 ATL – 3.29 TEX – .234 MIN – 56 ATL – 3.44 LAD – 1.14 TOR – 217 ATL – .674
SEA – 219.1 TEX – 3.46 LAD – .236 2 tied – 59 HOU – 3.72 TEX – 1.14 2 tied – 216 CHC – .676

TWINS AND CUBS: The Twins and Cubs are playing each other for the 40th time in their history… the Twins are 18-21 all-time against the Cubs, going 4-6 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)…yesterday’s Twins win snapped a five-game winning streak for the Cubs in Minnesota as the Twins beat Chicago at Target Field for the first time since June 19, 2015 (7-2 victory).

Christian Vázquez is hitting .381 (8-for-21) with two doubles and one walk in his career vs. Marcus Stroman…Joey Gallo is 3-for-6 (.500) with a home run, four RBI and two walks lifetime against Stroman.

SERIES FINALE: The Twins are looking to win their seventh series of the season today, going 6-5-1 in series play in 2023 (results to the right)…their only series loss at home this season was dropping two of three to the Nationals from April 21-23…today would mark their first series win over an NL team since sweeping the Giants in three games from August 26-28, 2022.

NATIONAL NEWS: The Twins have gone 5-6 in Interleague Play this season, going 1-2 at Miami from April 3-5, 1-2 vs. Washington from April 21- 23, 2-1 vs. San Diego and 1-1 vs. Chicago-NL…the Twins will continue their IL schedule with three at Los Angeles from Mon- day-Wednesday against the Dodgers, their first trip there since 2017 (swept in 3).

This season the Twins are playing 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 (this week), 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).

LAND OF 10,000 RAKES: After hitting a season-high five home runs yesterday afternoon, the Twins have homered 52 times on the season, the fourth most in the AL and seventh most in baseball…42 of their home runs have come in their last 28 games since April 13…since that date only the Rays (50), Braves (45) and Dodgers (43) have hit more.

KIRILLOFF GOING OFF: Since being recalled from Triple-A St. Paul on May 5, Alex Kirilloff has hit .438 (7-for-16) with six walks, a .591 on-base percentage and an 1.466 OPS in seven games…in his last 17 games between Triple-A (April 18-May 4) and Minnesota (May 6-13), he has combined to hit .352 (19-for-54) with three doubles, five home runs, 15 RBI, 12 walks, a .485 on-base percentage and a 1.171 OPS.

C4 IGNITING: Carlos Correa has hit safely in a season-long four-straight games, hitting .313 (5-for-16) with three doubles, one home run, six RBI, two walks, a .389 on-base percentage, a .688 slugging percentage and a 1.076 OPS in that span.

Correa has recorded an extra-base hit in four-straight games, doubling in three straight from Wednesday-Friday, then homering yester- day…it s tied for the third-longest extra-base hit streak of his career, his career long being six, from April 19-24, 2019 with Houston.i

JOEY GALLO AND STATCAST STILL HAVEN’T SPOKEN: Joey Gallo hit his eighth home run of the season yesterday, tying Byron Buxton for team lead…yesterday’s homer marked his first since April 26 vs. New York-AL, a span of 50 plate appearances between homers…Gallo’s home run did not register a distance on Statcast, landing between sections 239 and 240 in rightfield, roughly half way up the grandstand…he has averaged 409 feet on his home runs this season (counting just the previous 7 HRs), the tied for seventh best in the AL…additionally, he has an average exit velocity of 95.0 mph, ranking fourth in baseball, trailing Yandy Díaz (95.7), Matt Chapman (95.2) and Aaron Judge (95.2).

TWINS ML WEEKLYS: Double-A Wichita infielder Yunior Severino and Low-A Fort Myers right-handed pitcher C.J. Culpepper have been named Twins minor league Player and Pitcher of the Week.

Severino, 23, hit .444 (8-for-18) with two doubles, three home runs, six RBI, three walks, a .524 on-base percentage and a 1.056 slugging percentage for the Wind Surge…the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native was signed by the Twins as an international free agent in July of 2016.

Culpepper, 21, made the start on Friday against Tampa, allowing one run on four hits in 5.1 innings pitched, with one walk and eight
strikeouts, earning the win for the Mighty Mussels…the Upland, California native was selected by the Twins in the 13th round of the
2022 First-Year Player Draft out of California Baptist University.

SAY HI TO YOUR MOTHER FOR ME: The Twins are 27-35 all-time on Mother’s Day (since ’61)…they won on Mom’s Day last season, on May 8, by a score of 4-3 over the Oakland Athletics at Target Field…Chris Paddack was the starter, making his final start of the 2022 season (eventual Tommy John surgery), while the bullpen combined for 6.2 scoreless innings…Gilberto Celestino had three of the Twins’ nine hits…Jorge Polanco went 1-for-3 and drove in two of the team’s four runs.

2023: 0-0, 4.32 ERA CAREER: 1-2, 4.01 ERA

Making his fourth start of the season and his second home start of 2023…also his ninth career start and appearance.

Facing Chicago-NL for the first time in his career…also making his second career Interleague start and appearance.

Currently ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the Twins organization, per

Selected by the Twins in the 15th round of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of Division II Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

LAST TIME OUT: Took a no-decision, despite recording his second career quality start, in a 6-1 Twins loss against the San Diego Padres at Target Field on May 9, opposite Michael Wacha…allowed only one run on five hits, walked two batters and struck out six over 6.0 innings of work…retired nine of the first 12 batters he faced…yielded his only run via a RBI single by designated hitter Matt Carpenter in the top of the fourth inning to score outfielder Juan Soto…relieved by Griffin Jax in the seventh inning as the bullpen combined to pitch 3.0 innings while allowing five runs…Jax permitted the first two runs in the seventh inning; catcher Austin Nola brought in the first run via a sacrifice bunt, Jax then issued a bases-loaded walk to Jake Cronenworth…Jorge Alcala yielded the last three runs via a three-run homer from infielder Manny Machado.

Varland has recorded at least six strikeouts in each of his first three starts of the season… tied with seven others for the fifth-longest streak of starts with six-or-more strikeouts to start a season in Twins history (1961-presents, trailing Pablo Lopez’s current streak of eight, three Johan Santana seasons (8 in 2005, 6 in 2007 and 4 in 2002) and Francisco Liriano’s four-start run in 2005

TWO STARTS AGO: Took a no-decision in a 6-4 Twins defeat on May 3 against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, opposite Dylan Cease…pitched 4.2 innings, marking the shortest start of his career…allowed four runs on seven hits, issued two walks and fanned six batters…walked the first batter he faced…allowed a three-run home run to outfielder Luis Robert Jr. in the first inning…yielded another run in the fourth inning on a RBI single from infielder Tim Anderson…the inning ended after catcher Yasmani Grandal was thrown out at home on the single by Anderson…exited the game after recording two outs in the fifth inning…relieved by Emilio Pagán as the bullpen combined to pitch 3.1 innings while allowing two runs…the first run was allowed by Griffin Jax in the seventh inning off a RBI single to designated hitter Eloy Jiménez…Jovani Moran allowed the final run in the eighth inning on a groundout by infielder Elvis Andrus.

STRIKEOUTS THROUGH EIGHT: Varland has recorded 41 strikeouts in 42.2 innings pitched through his first eight major league starts…his 41 strikeouts are the fourth most in Twins history (since 1961) through a pitcher’s first eight games of his career, trailing Tyler Duffey (44 in 2015), Joe Ryan (46 from 2021-22) and Bert Blyleven (48 in 1970)…he has also recorded three-or-more strikeouts in each of his eight career games, the third-longest streak by a Twins pitcher to begin his career (Jim Merritt, 10 games in 1965; Joe Ryan, 15 games from 2021-22).

CUB SIGHTING: Facing the Cubs for the first time in his career today…also marks his second career Interleague start and appearance after facing San Diego on May 9 at Target Field…Chicago-NL will be the sixth team he has faced since his major league debut on September 7, 2022…in five career starts when facing an opponent for the first time, Varland is 0-2 with a 4.00 ERA (27.0 IP, 12 ER), eight walks and 22 strikeouts.

HOME FOR THE WEEK: Varland will take the mound to complete Minnesota’s six-game homestand after opening the homestand with a quality start on May 9 vs. San Diego…tonight is his fourth career start at home and second this season…in his three career home starts, he is 0-1, 3.24 ERA (16.2 IP, 6 ER) with five walks and 12 strikeouts…is 1-1, 4.50 ERA (26.0 IP, 13 ER) with six walks and six strikeouts in his five career starts on the road…his three walks issued at home last season tied for second lowest among the entire Twins pitching staff (min. 10.0 IP).

LEFTIES VS. RIGHTIES: After his first three starts this season, left-handed hitters are batting .320 (8-for-25) with eight strikeouts against Varland, while righties are hitting .244 (10-for 41) with 12 strikeouts…each of his four home runs allowed have been to right-handed hitters this year…histori- cally, Varland has posted similar numbers against both left- and right-handed hitters…last season, lefties posted a .262/.296/.405 slash line (11-for-42) with three doubles, one home run, two walks, nine strikeouts and a .700 OPS…righties slashed .263/.323/.491 (15-for-57) with an .814 OPS, two doubles, three home runs, four walks and 12 strikeouts.

PITCH BREAKDOWN: Varland has used a four-pitch mix in his first three starts of 2023, including a four-seam fastball, slider, cutter and changeup, according to Baseball Savant…threw 39 four-seam fastballs in his last start on May 9 vs. San Diego, his most in a start this year…also recorded a strikeout with each of his pitch types in his last start (changeup – 2, slider – 2, four-seam fastball – 1, cutter – 1)…below is a look at his repertoire:

4-Seam Fastball (95.4)………………36.6% (97 pitches, 62/35)…………….. .364 (8-for-22), 3 HR, 5 K
Cutter (90.1) …………………………….30.9% (82 pitches, 57/25)……………………… .267 (4-for-15), 5 K
Changeup (84.6)……………………….16.6% (44 pitches, 18/26)…….. .313 (5-for-16), 1 2B, 1 HR, 6 K
Slider (84.1)……………………………..15.8% (42 pitches, 30/12)……………………… .077 (1-for-13), 4 K

Threw a 98.5 mph four-seam fastball to strike out infielder Manny Machado in the top of the first inning of his last start vs. San Diego on May 9, the fastest pitch of his career, according to Statcast.

Varland has averaged 10.6 inches of horizontal movement on his slider this season, the highest slider horizontal movement on the Twins staff in 2023, according to Baseball Savant.

WHAT’S NEW, LOU?: Today’s start marks several firsts for Varland:

Facing a National League Central opponent for the first time in his career…becomes the fifth division he has faced in his career; has yet to face a NL East opponent.

Making a daytime start for the first time this year…went 1-1, 3.54 ERA (20.1 IP, 8 ER) with five walks and 18 strikeouts in four daytime starts last year; Twins went 1-3 in those four starts.

Has never faced any current Cubs hitters in his career.

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