RECORDS: White Sox 23-26 Twins 33-16
GAMETIMES: Friday 7:10, Saturday and Sunday 1:10
TV: WGN Friday, NBCSN Saturday and Sunday
KIRK COUSINS’S PRISONERS: Twinkie Town
TBD vs. Kyle Gibson
PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP
Charlie Tilson – CF
Yoan Moncada – 3B
Jose Abreu – 1B
Wellington Castillo – C
Eloy Jimenez – LF
Tim Anderson – SS
Yonder Alonso – DH
Yolmer Sanchez – 2B
Ryan Cordell – RF
PROBABLE TWINS LINEUP
Max Kepler – DH
Jorge Polanco – SS
Marwin Gonzalez – RF
Eddie Rosario – LF
C.J. Cron – 1B
Miguel Sano – 3B
Jonathan Schoop – 2B
Jason Castro – C
Byron Buxton – CF
After four days with the class of the AL and coming out intact, if not with heads held high, the Sox traverse the length of the country (or width? Whatever, south to north) to see the team that’s knocking on the door to join that class. The Minnesota Twins are out by themselves in the AL Central, have the best winning-percentage in all of baseball, and along with the Astros have a +90 run-differential, best in the game by a distance.
How did they get here? By smashing the shit out of the baseball. The Twins lead the world in runs by 17, They’re second in the AL behind the Astros in average, on-base percentage, and lead everyone in slugging. They’ve done this while playing in one of the least hitter-friendly parks as well. In fact, it’s the worst in the American League and only trails Wrigley so far this year, with both benefitting from Winter Olympics conditions. Or suffering, take your pick.
Of all the regulars, the only soft spots are Marwin Gonzalez and Hero Of Everymen Everywhere Willian Astudillo. Jason Castro and Mitch Garver have kept Astudillo third on the depth-chart most of the season, though Garver is hurt at the moment. But they’re getting hitting from everywhere, with Polanco vaulting himself into stardom, and squeezing power out of Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron. The former might not play this series but is about ready to come back from injury. It’s a tough lineup to traverse, if the Sox weren’t already tired from having to run the Astros gauntlet for four days.
But it’s not like the Twins don’t get pitching as well. Berrios, Odorizzi, and Martin Perez are all carrying ERAs of 3.30 or under and FIPs to back that up as not flukes. It’s not a huge strikeout staff but they don’t walk a lot of guys. They don’t get many grounders but in that park that’s not a huge problem. Gibson has had some homer problems but that’s mostly due to luck and will probably even out over the rest of the year, even as the weather warms up.
The pen is anchored by the continually grunting and sweaty Blake Parker, and no I don’t know how that works either but it does. Parker doesn’t strike that many out, walks too many, but gets out of it with a high groundball-rate and pure guts essentially. The main bridge to him is Taylor Rogers who is the strikeout dude back there. Ryne Harper and Matt Magill have also been highly effective.
Whereas Lucas Giolito got his shot at parading through a lineup of mutants and had maybe his best night in the majors last night, it’ll be Reynaldo Lopez’s turn tonight. It looks like another bullpen day on Saturday.
With the trajectories these teams are on, and the declines elsewhere, this could be the prologue to another few years of Twins-Sox arguments at the top of the Central. Which should lead to another batch of hilarious ads from Fox Sports North and an invasion of surprisingly annoying Twins fans whenever they’re on the Southside. And away we go.