Coming off of a riveting sweep of the Dodgers, the Braves run into a struggling Minnesota Twins team at the start of this week. Let’s glance forward at what to expect from Minnesota.
In the last four starts, Julio Teheran has been a different (read: better) pitcher. He hasn’t allowed more than 3 runs since April 18th, and while his strikeout rate is still painfully low (5.66 per 9 on the season), he’s been quietly effective. The Twins lineup does present a unique challenge with left-handers (Mauer, Morneau, etc.), but it isn’t a terribly deep group. It’ll be interesting to see which catcher grabs the start between Gattis and Laird (as we assume that McCann will have Monday off after playing Sunday), and the use of Teheran’s change-up should be worthy of study. Correia has an impressive 3.35 ERA this year, but the peripherals show that he isn’t a terribly different pitcher than the run-of-the-mill guy he has been in the past. This is the most “even” of the pitching match-ups during the series, and as such, it is the game that Minnesota is most likely to steal.
With the positive news about Teheran, there is negative information on Tim Hudson. Hudson has allowed 5+ runs in back-to-back outings, and his groundball rate is a career-low 54.7% in 2013. His 5.12 ERA is unsustainably high (3.91 FIP, 3.63 xFIP) and he’s been visibly unlucky in recent days, but Hudson may have lost a half-step this season. This will be a valuable test for Huddy at home, and this is a lineup he can handle. Former Met Mike Pelfrey gets the nod for the Twins, and he’s a bit of a mess. Pelfrey has a 6.57 ERA in 8 starts this year, and his sub-5.00 strikeout rate is pretty difficult to support for a starter. Another positive for Atlanta is his right-handedness, and Minnesota can’t even rely on the “random lefty kills Atlanta” subplot. Great match-up here.
More NL East alumni! Vance Worley moved over to Minnesota from Philadelphia in the off-season and he seems to have lost the magic. He has a 6.20 ERA in 9 starts with the Twins, and frankly, he has never had the overpowering stuff that would frighten the Braves lineup. Paul Maholm toes the rubber for Atlanta, and he was much better in his last start against the Dodgers. Maholm probably isn’t the dominant force that he was in his first 3 starts of 2013, but he’s an above-average starter at this point in his career, and the Minnesota bats can be neutralized by a quality lefty. The 12:10 first-pitch time brings some worry of “getaway” day carelessness, but if all goes to plan, the Braves should be wrapping up a series victory by 4:00 PM eastern time.
The last-place Twins enter Atlanta with a 18-22 record. Honestly, the roster is probably even worse than that, but they are still capable of stealing a win or two against the Braves if they don’t play at a high level. We’ll have game-by-game recaps in this space, and it should be an entertaining three days. Stay tuned.