Wednesday, May 31, 2023

MLB Preview: San Francisco Giants (23-24) at Minnesota Twins (25-23)


TODAY’S GAME: The Giants and Twins meet up tonight for game two of this three-game set…yesterday’s victory was SF’s first here at Target Field and their first overall win in Minnesota since edging the Twins 14-7 on June 16, 2005 at the Metrodome…the Giants look to clinch their third consecutive series and their fifth this month with a win tonight.

LET’S EVEN THINGS OUT: Yesterday’s 4-1 win put SF at one game below .500 for the first time since posting a 5-6 record on April 11 vs. Los Angeles-NL…with a win tonight, the Giants would move to .500 for the first time since April 6, when the SF finished its sixth game of the season 3-3 at Chicago-AL…the Giants have yet to post a winning record yet this season.

BULL’S EYE: The Giants have won six of their last seven games, a stretch that comes after dropping six of their previous eight contests…this excellent stretch is in part due to SF’s bullpen, who’s sporting a 1.29 ERA and holding opposing teams to a .195 average…since May 15, the 44 strikeouts and 35.0 innings by the Giants’ ‘pen are both second-most in MLB behind the Dodgers (45k, 42.1ip), while their six saves are tops in the Majors.

IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE: Overall, SF’s pitching staff has posted a 2.57 ERA since May 15, the best figure in the NL and fourth-lowest in MLB behind the White Sox (1.74), Yankees (1.96) and Astros (2.43)…the Giants’ offense averaged 4.6 runs-per-game despite homering just four times over the seven-game span…after slugging an NL-leading 46 home runs in April, SF hitters have just 20 homers this month, tied for 18th in MLB.

BATTLE OF TITANS: Tonight’s starter RHP Alex Cobb has been dominant on the mound this year, boasting a 3-1 record with a 1.94 ERA early this season…the veteran’s ERA is lowest in the NL and ranks second in the Majors, trailing only tonight’s opponent RHP Sonny Gray (1.64)…Cobb has pitched at least 5.0 innings and allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his last nine starts against AL Central opponents, matching
the third-longest active such streak in MLB…the right-hander has a 4-1 record with a 1.82 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over this nine start stretch.

LET THE KIDS PLAY: The recent addition of rookies IF Casey Schmitt and C Patrick Bailey has proved to make a great difference in SF’s defensive perfomance so far..Schmitt has been outstanding in trying to turn double plays, converting eight of nine chances as a shortstop and each of his two at third base…additionally, in 30 innings with Bailey catching so far this year, Giants pitchers have a 5.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio (38 strikeouts to seven walks)

MANAE-ACE:LHP Sean Manaea was awarded with the win last night after fanning eight batters over 3.2-scoreless innings of relief with just three hits…Manaea’s eight strikeouts were the most he’s recorded in a relief appearance in his career and the most strikeouts by a Giants reliever since RHP Sean Hjelle also struck out eight at San Diego on October 3, 2022… according to OptaSTATS, the southpaw became the first Major League left-hander to throw at least 80 pitches and strike out eight-or-more batters in a scoreless relief outing since Randy Johnson struck out 16 in 7.0 innings pitched on July 19, 2001…since officially returning to the ‘pen on May 17, LHP Sean Manaea has posted a 1.69 ERA (1er, 5.1ip) with a .211 opposing average (4×19) and 10 strikeouts (16.88K/9.0ip) in two relief outings.

SWEET 16: With strong showings from Manaea, RHP John Brebbia, RHP Tristan Beck, RHP Tyler Rogers and LHP Scott Alexander, Giants pitchers combined to strike out 16 batters in last night’s bullpen game…the 16 strikeouts matched a season-best for SF, also done on March 30 at New York-AL and April 19 at Miami…overall, Giants pitchers have struck out at least 15 hitters four times this year, most in MLB ahead of Toronto, Seattle and Miami (all with three).

HEATING UP: OF Michael Conforto slugged his team-leading ninth home run of the season last night, a three-run shot that gave the Giants a 4-0 advantage in the 1st inning…the homer was Conforto’s fifth in his last 11 games, tied for the fourth-most homers in MLB since May 10 behind NYY’s Aaron Judge (7), CHC’s Christopher Morel (7) and STL’s Nolan Arenado(6)…Conforto is hitting .325 (13×40) with 12 RBI and a 1.103 OPS in that stretch.

CONFORT…ABLE: The outfielder also has a relatively long history of success against the AL Central, particularly the Twins…Conforto’s 1.081 OPS vs. the division is tops in MLB (min. 125 PAs) among active players, with his .620 slugging percentage ranking third…in his small seven-game history vs. the Twins, Conforto is 11-for-23 with 10 RBI and a 1.338 OPS


THE TWINS: After completing their road-trip with a record of 2-4 (1-2 at Dodger Stadium and 1-2 at Angel Stadium), the Twins began their six-game, seven-day homestand with a loss to the Giants last night…tonight, Minnesota will continue the homestand with the second of three against the Giants…they will conclude the series tomorrow afternoon, then enjoy an off-day on Thursday…they will continue the homestand with three against the Blue Jays over the weekend…the Twins have gone 14-9 at Target Field and 11-14 on the road.

The Twins have gone 6-1-0 in series play at Target Field…they have not lost back-to-back home games since April 21-22, going 10-5 here since…the Twins one series loss at home came April 21-23, dropping two of three to Washington.

BATS CAN’T CARRY TWINS OUT OF GIANT FIRST INNING HOLE: The Twins lost to the Giants last night at Target Field by a score of 4-1…Bailey Ober (3-1) was the starter and loser, allowing four runs on three hits in 5.0 innings pitched…he allowed all four runs to cross in the first inning, highlighted by a Michael Conforto three-run homer after he walked the first two batters of the game…the offense recorded four hits, two from Carlos Correa, who doubled for the 11th time this season and sixth time in his last 12 games…Kyle Garlick drove in the Twins only run with his second home run of the season…Minnesota also struck out 16 times, matching a season-high, done twice previously (4/18 at BOS & 5/19 at LAA).

SONNY HAS BEEN GRAYT: Through nine starts, Sonny Gray has gone 4-0, 1.64 ERA (49.1 IP, 9 ER) with 19 walks and 60 strikeouts, while holding opponents to a .210 (38-for-181) batting average…below are his ranks among AL starting pitchers in a few notable categories: ERA OPS SLG HR FIP WAR

Gray – 1.64 Rodriguez – .523 Gray – .282 Gray – 0 Gray – 1.98 Gausman – 2.3
Cole – 2.01 Ryan – .530 Rodriguez – .291 Eovaldi – 3 Ryan – 2.31 Eovaldi – 2.3
McClanahan – 2.05 Ohtani – .560 Ohtani – .294 Kirby – 3 Eovaldi – 2.43 Ryan – 2.2
Rodriguez – 2.06 Wells – .560 Ryan – .295 Brown – 3 Gausman – 2.45 Gray – 2.2
Ryan – 2.25 Gray – .564 Cole – .309 Sandoval – 3 Gilbert – 2.66 Valdez – 2.1

WE WERE GIANTS: The Twins and Giants are playing each other for the 20th time in their history tonight…the Twins are 9-10 all-time against San Francisco, going 3-1 at Target Field, 5-7 at Oracle Park and 1-2 at the Metrodome…dating back to 2017, the Twins have won five of their last seven over the Giants.

The 19 games played against the Giants are the Twins’ second fewest against any major league opponent in their history (since 1961)…they have played Colorado the fewest times at 18.

Rocco Baldelli and Gabe Kapler were teammates for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010.

Sonny Gray and Alex Cobb have faced off four times before, with Cobb posting a 1.05 ERA and Gray a 3.63 ERA, while their teams have split 2-2.

Christian Vázquez is 12-for-19 lifetime vs. Cobb, 11 of which are singles (1 double).

THE OTHER GUYS: The Twins have gone 7-9 in Interleague Play this season, going 1-2 at Miami, 1-2 vs. Washington, 2-1 vs. San Diego, 2-1 vs. Chicago-NL, 1-2 vs. Los Angeles-NL and 0-1 vs. San Francisco…they have gone 6-5 in their last 11 vs. the NL after starting the season 1-4… after this series, the Twins’ next NL opponent will be the Brewers for two games at Target Field from June 13-14…the Twins are 10-6 (.625) against the AL Central and 15-17 (.469) against the rest of the league this season…no other division leader is below .500 in non-divisional games…below are the Twins pitching numbers compared to other AL divisions/NL:

CENTRAL 10-6 2.53 .193 2.70 9.0 1.06 .574
EAST 5-5 4.41 .250 3.84 9.9 1.27 .708
WEST 3-3 3.57 .246 6.00 12.2 1.17 .663
NATIONAL 7-9 3.71 .227 2.91 9.9 1.22 .681

WE ARE FARMERS: Since returning from the 10-day Injured List on May 10 (facial laceration), Kyle Farmer has played in 12 games, hitting .348 (16-for-46) with one double, two home runs, nine RBI, a .400 on-base percentage and a .900 OPS…in that span, he ranks eighth in the AL in batting average and 13th in on-base percentage.

AK NOT JUST OK: Alex Kirilloff has reached base safely in eight of his last nine games since May 13, hitting .344 (11-for-32) with a .382 on-base percentage in that span…since being recalled from Triple-A St. Paul on May 5, Kirilloff has hit .333 (15-for-45) with three doubles, three home runs, six RBI, six walks, a .434 on-base percentage and an 1.034 OPS in 15 games.

Against right-handed pitching this season, he is hitting .351 (13-for-37) with six walks, a .455 on-base percentage and a 1.049 OPS…against lefties, he is hitting .250 (2-for-8).

C4, IGNITING: Carlos Correa has reached safely in each of his last 12 games, hitting .289 (13-for-45) in that span, with a .407 on-base percentage (13 hits & 9 walks), six doubles, one home run and nine RBI…Correa’s current streak matches his season-long long, done previously from May 10-21…his career-long is 27, from June 10-July 15, 2017 with Houston.

Correa is hitting .365 (27-for-74) with seven walks, a .415 on-base percentage, a .554 slugging percentage and a .969 OPS in 19 home games in IL Play since the start of 2022…he has hit safely in six-straight home games vs. NL opponents with eight RBI in that span.

Correa has recorded a hit in 11 of his 14 career games against the Giants; is batting .333 (18-for-54) with three doubles, one home run and eight RBI in his career vs. San Francisco.

BUCK TRUCK REVVING THE ENGINE: Byron Buxton went 0-for-3 but was hit by a pitch last night, extending his on-base streak to a career-long 22-straight games, since April 25…Buxton’s current streak is the longest for a Twin since Jorge Polanco reached safely in
37-straight from May 13-June 25, 2019.

In his last seven games, Buxton is hitting .308 (8-for-26) with four walks, two doubles, one home run, two RBI, four walks, eight
runs scored, two stolen bases, a .419 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage and a .919 OPS.

MAHLE UPDATE: Right-handed pitcher Tyler Mahle had successful Tommy John surgery yesterday in Dallas, Texas, a procedure performed by Dr. Keith Meister…he is expected to have a full recovery over the next 14 months and will be rehabbing at his home in Anaheim, California for the remainder of the season…Mahle made five starts for the Twins this season, going 1-2, 3.16 ERA (25.2 IP, 9 ER) with five walks and 28 strikeouts prior to landing on the 15-day Injured List on May 3.

Enters today leading all qualified major league pitchers in ERA…also ranks first in FIP (1.98) and fifth in WAR (2.2).

Making his 257th career appearance and 248th career start.

Facing San Francisco for the first time this season, sixth in his career; is 2-1, 3.21 ERA (28.0 IP, 10 ER) with 12 walks and 24 strikeouts…looking for his first win against the Giants since September 25, 2015.

Making 10th start of the year and sixth at home…is 7-2, 2.11 ERA (98.0 IP, 23 ER) with 32 walks and 120 strikeouts in 18 home starts since joining the Twins.

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

LAST TIME OUT: Did not factor into the decision against the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 17 at Dodger Stadium, opposite Dustin May…pitched 4.0 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with three walks and four strikeouts…marked his shortest start of the season and his shortest outing since September 24, 2022 vs. Washington where he also pitched 4.0 innings…allowed his first run in the third inning via a sacrifice fly to infielder Freddie Freeman…yielded his last run on an RBI single to outfielder Mookie Betts in the fourth inning…relieved by Jovani Moran in the fifth as the bullpen combined to pitch 4.0 innings while allowing five runs…Moran pitched a scoreless fifth while José De León pitched a scoreless sixth in his season debut…lifted after allowing two singles in the seventh inning…Emilio Pagán entered in the seventh inning and permitted all five runs…issued a bases loaded walk to infielder Miguel Rojas followed by a grand slam by outfielder James Outman.

TWO STARTS AGO: Did not factor into the decision against the Chicago Cubs on May 12 at Target Field, opposite Drew Smyly…pitched 5.1 innings, allowing one run on four hits, with one walk and nine strikeouts in a 6-2 Twin loss in the opener of the three-game series…recorded his first four strikeouts looking; marked his second-most looking strikeouts of the season (5 on April 7 vs. Houston)…allowed his only run on a sacrifice fly to outfielder Seiya Suzuki…relieved by Jovani Moran in the sixth inning after striking out infielder Dansby Swanson…Griffin Jax entered the game in the seventh inning and yielded two runs (an RBI double to infielder Matt Mervis and an RBI single to catcher Yan Gomes)… Jorge Alcala entered the game to pitch a scoreless eighth inning before yielding a two-run home run to infielder Chrstopher Morel in the ninth inning…Alcala was lifted from the game after the home run… Dereck Rodríguez entered in the ninth inning and allowed the final run off a sacrifice fly to outfielder Cody Bellinger.

AT THE TOP: Gray is still the only pitcher in the majors who has yet to allow a home run this season (min. 45.0 IP)…after his last start on May 17, Gray holds the longest streak in Twins history for the most starts without allowing a home run to start a season, passing Frankie Rodriguez at eight games in 1995.

AGAINST SAN FRANCISCO: Gray is facing the Giants for the sixth time in his career, going 2-1, 3.21 ERA (28.0 IP, 11 ER) with 12 walks and 24 strikeouts in his five previous appearances…last faced San Francisco on August 27, 2022 at Target Field, taking a no-decision in a 10-inning, 3-2 Twins victory after allowing one run on one hit with four walks and four strikeouts in 5.0 innings…yielded his only run via a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Tommy La Stella in the fifth inning…relieved in the sixth inning by Caleb Thielbar as the bullpen combined to pitch 5.0 innings…the only run permitted was another sacrifice fly by outfielder Austin Slater off Trevor Megill…The Twins won the game with a bases loaded walk issued to outfielder Gilberto Celestino.

Looking for his first win against the Giants since September 25, 2015 when he led the Oakland Athletics to a 5-4 win at Oakland Coliseum after pitching 6.0 innings, allowing two runs on five hits (1 HR) with two walks and seven strikeouts.

All of Gray’s five starts against the Giants have been at home.

Gray is 12-8, 3.40 ERA (195.2 IP, 74 ER) with 64 walks and 196 strikeouts in 34 career Interleague games (33 starts)…is 1-0, 3.00 ERA (24.0 IP, 8 ER) with 11 walks and 27 strikeouts in five Interleague starts since joining the Twins.

BACK HOME: Gray is making his sixth home start of the season tonight, going 3-0, 0.89 ERA (30.1 IP, 3 ER) with seven walks and 42 strikeouts in his five prior home outings…went 4-2, 2.66 ERA (67.2 IP, 20 ER) with 25 walks and 78 strikeouts in 13 home starts in 2022 and is 53-38, 3.72 ERA (758.2 IP, 314 ER) with 254 walks and 743 strikeouts in 134 career home appearances, including 130 starts.

Is 7-2, 2.11 ERA (98.0 IP, 23 ER) with 32 walks and 120 strikeouts in 18 home starts since becoming a Twin…ranks first for the most strikeouts in their first 18 games at home in Twins history (since 1961)…also holds the lowest ERA.

Ranks second for lowest home ERA in baseball this season, trailing only Arizona’s Zac Gallen (0.77) (min 30.0 IP).

THE ARSENAL: Gray is currently using a six-pitch mix, per Baseball Savant…continues to use his curveball the most at 23.5 percent…primarily uses his curveball (121 pitches) and changeup (52 pitches) against lefties and his cutter (128 pitches), sinker (131 pitches) and sweeper (127 pitches) against righties…here’s a look at his repertoire so far:

Curveball (79.0)…………………….23.5% (194 pitches, 73/121)…………… .214 (9-for-42), 3 2B, 13 K
Cutter (87.4) …………………………19.5% (161 pitches, 128/33)…………….. .143 (4-for-28), 1 2B, 6 K
Sinker (92.5) …………………………17.7% (146 pitches, 131/15)…… .212 (7-for-33), 2 2B, 1 3B, 15 K
4-Seam Fastball (92.6)……………16.8% (139 pitches, 41/98)……………… .333 (8-for-24), 2 2B, 2 K
Sweeper (83.3)……………………….16.1% (133 pitches, 127/6)……………. .190 (8-for-42), 2 2B, 23 K
Changeup (87.0)……………………….6.5% (54 pitches, 2/52)………………… .167 (2-for-12), 1 2B, 1 K

Ranks second for the lowest opponent batting average against a cutter in all of baseball, 12th against the sweeper, 16th against a changeup and 28th against the curveball (min. 750 pitches).

Ranks third for the most strikeouts off a sweeper, trailing LAA’s Shohei Ohtani (39) and COL’s Justin Lawrence (25)…tied with St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas for ninth on sinkers (min 750 pitches).

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