The Red Sox enter a three-game series with Minnesota Twins coming off two consecutive 3-2 losses to the Cleveland Indians. Despite scoring 10 runs against the Indians Thursday night, the team continues to play uninspired baseball.
The team (31-38 overall, 17-19 at Fenway) remains, as it has for several weeks, in fourth place in the AL East division, nine games out of first place, and tied with the Houston Astros at 5.5 games behind in the Wild Card standings.
In 69 games, Boston ranks 21st out of 30 MLB teams in batting average at .246. The Red Sox are 22nd in runs (273), 20th in hits (582) and 24th in home runs (50). Brock Holt is batting .340 through his 35 games in Boston. Dustin Pedroia leads the club in hits with 72. David Ortiz has 15 home runs (next closest are Mike Napoli and Xander Bogaerts at six) and also leads the team in RBI with 42.
The pitching, conversely, is 14th in ERA (3.75), 16th in earned runs (262) and seventh in strikeouts (564). Koji Uehara has a personal ERA that is almost nonexistent (0.69), and Jon Lester is one strikeout away from 100 for the season.
The Twins come in at 32-35 (17-18 on the road), having dropped their last two games in Detroit. The team stands at fourth place in the AL Central, five games behind the division-leading Tigers, but only a half-game out of the basement, currently occupied by the Chicago White Sox.
The Twins are 19th overall in batting average (.248), 12th in runs (295), 22nd in hits (571) and 21st in home runs (55).
Kendrys Morales is batting .360 in six games with the Twins. Eduardo Escobar has hit .314 over 55 games. Brian Dozier has the team lead in home runs (15) and Trevor Plouffe, who just went on the disabled list, has the most RBI (38).
Minnesota’s team ERA is 4.43 (28th). The pitching staff has allowed 295 earned runs (26th) and just 58 home runs (10th) but has struck out the fewest batters of all 30 MLB teams with 410 (39 behind the Colorado Rockies at 29th).
The Red Sox dropped two of three games to the Twins at Target Field last month.
The scheduled pitching matchups for the Fenway showdowns are:
Monday, June 16, 7:10 p.m. – NESN, MLB.TV
Tuesday, June 17, 7:10 p.m. – NESN, MLB.TV
Wednesday, June 18, 1:35 p.m. – NESN, MLBN, MLB.TV
BSI: The Twins have hovered around the .500 mark throughout the season, and at or near the bottom of the AL Central Division. Recently, your division opponents have all slipped in the standings to the point where the Twins are a handful of games out of the lead. How do you see the race evolving?
CK: I want to say the Twins could contend, and part of me says that they really can, but I think the Twins best finish possible will be third. Detroit is going to win the division, Kansas City is playing out of its mind right now, and Cleveland is finally out of their early season doldrums. Heck, Chicago has even looked decent this year. The AL Central is a hard division to predict spots 2-5, there’s an argument for everyone. Right now I’d say it’ll finish: Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota, Cleveland and Chicago. … I retain the right to change that though.
BSI: GM Terry Ryan surprised – even shocked – the baseball world by signing free agent first baseman Kendrys Morales immediately after the draft. It’s not the Twins’ custom to make such midseason acquisitions. What sort of message has it sent to the team and fans in Minnesota?
CK: The message to the fan base is that the Twins are actually trying to win this year. After three years of 90-loss baseball, that stance was needed by the fans. For the team, Morales has done wonders. It looks like the Twins are really rallying around Morales, especially his fellow Spanish speakers. It’s been a behind-the-scenes storyline for the Twins for the past couple years that the major league club only has one Spanish speaking coach. Morales helps make a connection with a good majority of the clubhouse with his leadership.
BSI: Morales has played DH and been a contributor in the middle of the lineup. Is he expected to play daily? Will he spell Joe Maurer regularly at first base?
CK: Morales has played in every game since he’s been signed, sans the game that was about an hour after his introductory press conference. I expect him to play every day at the DH spot. I highly doubt we’ll ever see him at first base. If manager Ron Gardenhire feels like Mauer needs a day off at first, that position will more than likely go to Chris Parmelee.
BSI: The Twins’ top two prospects – Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano – have each been dealing with injuries in the minor leagues this season. What is their status and who in the farm system can the team look to for late season help in the division chase?
CK: Both Buxton and Sano are still injured. Buxton should be back fairly soon. It’s still a little up in the air what might happen with Sano. Many beat writers believe that Sano will be doing some DH duty in the minors sometime towards the end of this year, but that’s nowhere near official. The prospects to look for this year are Trevor May and Alex Meyer. They are currently starters at Triple-A Rochester and should be in the MLB rotation by the end of the year. When their starts lineup with Sam Deduno and Kevin Correia, I would think they would take those spots rather soon.
BSI: Phil Hughes and Glen Perkins have been the obvious stars of the Twins’ pitching staff to date. Who else has contributed but has remained a little under the radar?
CK: Kyle Gibson hasn’t been horrible in the rotation thus far. He’s been kind of streaky, but he’s still young and should be a part of the Twins rotation for the years to come. The bullpen as a whole has been pretty solid this year. If I had to pick out one bullpen guy in particular, I’d say Casey Fien has done a nice job so far in 2014. Fien is currently sporting a 2.22 ERA and a 0.882 WHIP.
The Red Sox open a four-game series in Oakland Thursday. The Twins head home for four games against the White Sox.