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38-7: Phillies vs. Twins Series Preview

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The Phillies will look to score another victory in the Philadelphia-Minnesota rivalry

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals
Nelson is still “Cruzing” along at an elderly age
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

After starting out the season against two division rivals, the Phillies will host an American League team with which they have almost no rivalry. According to historical records, the Phillies and Minnesota Twins have played 18 games against each other, but I’m having a tough time remembering any of them.

While the Phillies and Twins don’t have much of a history, there is a bit of bad blood between Philadelphia and the twin cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. If you recall, the Minnesota Vikings traveled to Philly in January 2018 for the NFC Championship Game. That game didn’t go very well for the visiting team.

The game went even worse for the Minnesota fans who took that L about as poorly as a fan base can.

I just hope that when the Phillies are done beating up on the Twins, the fans will be a little more graceful in defeat.

Were the Twins good last year?

They were 78-84, which most people wouldn’t consider good, although that record did get them second place in the American League Central. (The Central was a bit of a horror show in 2018, with two teams losing over 100 games, and the Tigers coming close with 98 losses.)

Were the Twins projected to be good in 2019?

Most predictions had them at the edge of playoff contention. The Indians were thought to be the favorites in the American League Central, but the Twins were largely considered viable candidates for one of the Wild Card berths.

Are they actually good?

Much like the Phillies, the Twins are 4-1 and in first place of their division. It’s early, but that’s a solid start.

Who even plays for them anyway?

The Twins aren’t one of baseball’s glamour franchises, and being in the American League, many Phillies fans - myself included - are probably unfamiliar with their roster. It’s telling that the first name that came to my mind was Joe Mauer...who retired last year. The second name that came to mind is Kirby Puckett. Considering that he’s deceased, it shows you just how little attention I’ve paid to the Twins. (Speaking of Puckett, was there some sort of agreement that the stuff in this article would never be discussed?)

Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins
Kirby Puckett lives on in statue form
Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images

As for the living, non-retired players, there’s designated hitter Nelson Cruz who is still going strong at 38. It usually isn’t a good idea to have a 38-year-old as your best hitter, but it seems to be working out well so far. As for the rest of the lineup, it isn’t awful, but it isn’t exactly great either. Led by the likes of C.J. Cron and Eddie Rosario, the Twins’ offense isn’t going to keep opposing pitchers up at night.

What about the pitching?

The Twins’ scheduled starters for the series are Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, and José Berríos. Odorizzi has carved out a role for himself as a mediocre mid-rotation starter, while Pineda is attempting to prove he can stay healthy after missing the entire 2018 season following Tommy John surgery. Both men pitched well in their first start of the season, although Pineda was limited to just four innings.

Berríos has established himself as the staff ace, making the All-Star Game in 2018. He’s started off the season well, striking out 14 batters across two starts.

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins
Jose Berríos is the ace of the Twins’ staff
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The bullpen was not expected to be a team strength. Closing duties are being handled by veteran journeyman Blake Parker, who can be effective, but far from dominant. We’ve already seen the Phillies’ offense feast against the relief corps of the Braves and Nationals, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they put up some runs in the later innings this weekend.

Is that Rocco Baldelli?

Many fans might remember Rocco Baldelli as a promising young player for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the early 2000’s. He came in with a lot of hype, much of it due to the team owner declaring him to be the next Joe DiMaggio. (No pressure, kid.)

Thanks to injuries and a rare disease, Baldelli’s career never took off as expected. Phillies fans may remember that he hit a game-tying home run in game five of the 2008 World Series, but that was pretty much his career highlight.

He made the switch to coaching, and at age 37, he is the youngest manager in the major leagues. That’s got to be good news for the Twins, right? Because as Phillies fans can attest, a young rookie manager never makes costly mistakes.

Trivia

The first time the Phillies played the Twins in Minnesota was June 11, 2004. The Phillies won the game 11-6. Can you name the former Phillies All-Star who was the losing pitcher in that game?

Curiosity

Apparently the aforementioned game was actually the second time the Phillies played a game in Minnesota:

Viva La Tortuga

The Twins employ former Phillies farmhand Willians Astudillo, who has gained a cult following for being perhaps the most unique player in the major leagues. He’s pudgy (5’9”, 225 pounds), he’s versatile (he can play every position - even pitcher), and he almost never walks or strikes out (Three strikeouts in over 100 MLB plate appearances).

The Phillies gave up on “La Tortuga”, because they didn’t think a player with minimal power who never walked would amount to anything. In the end, he will likely never be much more than a curiosity. But has that stopped the Twins from planning a special night in his honor? Of course not!

Prediction

The way the Phillies’ offense is clicking, I doubt a couple of mediocre starters are going to slow them down. Berrios may have better luck, but unless he can pitch a complete game, the Phillies will be able to strike against the Twins’ bullpen. The Phillies will come away with a sweep, and the Minnesota fans will have more ignominy to live down.