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The Leadoff 5/10: Previewing the Week Ahead

No Correa, but Twins-Astros still has plenty to chew on.

With a full month of MLB finally in the books, trends are starting to emerge and teams are surprising and disappointing. After a feeling-out period, this is the time of year where winning becomes a focus. That means series bring a little extra feeling to them. So this week brings some interesting matchups, but a few deserve extra attention.

 

Twins Look to Slow Surging Astros 

 

This spring, you really didn’t know which way the Minnesota Twins were going to go. One day, they trade for Sonny Gray. The next, they deal away Josh Donaldson. Then they sign Carlos Correa. One area of concern was the starting rotation. Sure, getting Gray from the Cincinnati Reds was a good boost, however, it wasn’t one that necessarily puts a team over the top.

But it has been the starters who have carried the Twins to a 18-11 start, posting 3.17 ERA, seventh-best among MLB’s rotations. Twins pitching, which has a 3.11 ERA overall, will be tested during a three-game series Tuesday through Thursday against the Houston Astros (18-11) at Target Field in Minneapolis. Joe Ryan (3-1, 1.63 ERA), Chris Archer (0-0, 3.26 ERA), and Josh Winder (2-0, 1.61 ERA) will get the call.

Their challenge will be huge as the Astros are on a roll. Houston just completed a 7-0 homestand with a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners and a four-gamer of the Detroit Tigers where Astros pitchers tossed three shutouts. Justin Verlander (3-1, 1.93 ERA), coming off his most pitches (100) since having Tommy John surgery in 2000, faces Ryan in the opener, while José Urquidy and Luis Garcia will follow.

While this would have been the first series for Correa to face his old team, this series continues a rugged stretch for the Astros, who have 33 games in 34 days. In order to do have success and keep pace with the Los Angeles Angels (19-11) in the AL West, the offense will have to pick up its production. Houston ranks 27th in MLB with a .217 batting average, yet they are tied for second with 36 homers.

 

 

Youth on Tap for Rays-Jays

 

The Tampa Bay Rays are just unorthodox. They also play in one of the worst ballparks in the majors. Yet all they do is pump out wins and playoff appearances. Already this season, the Rays are 18-11, second in the AL East and just one of three teams in the AL to have scored more than 130 runs.

Shortstop Wander Franco, yet to play in 100 MLB games, is leading the charge, posting a .310/.336/.504 slash line with four homers and 15 RBIs, both second on the Rays. Right fielder Manuel Margot (.325/.391/.494, three HRs, 20 RBIs) has also been a big producer. Following a West Coast trip to play the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels, the Rays will return home to Tropicana Field to take on the Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game series Friday to Sunday.

The series features some of the best young talent in MLB, with the Jays countering with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. At 17-13, the Jays are just behind the Rays in the East, so this early clash will continue the early jockeying for position. Toronto will be coming off a three-game set against the division-leading New York Yankees.

The Jays haven’t found their groove yet, but have been involved in a ton of close games. Toronto has gone 10-5 in one-run games so far and have played five in eight May games, going 2-3. Guerrero is slashing .286/.358/.524 with seven homers and 19 RBIs.

 

 

Meet Me in St. Louis

 

Each team has bigger and more intense rivalries, but there just seems to be a little extra edge to a series whenever the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals square off. Maybe it is just the history of these two clubs.

Following the Giants splitting four with the Cardinals in San Francisco this weekend, there will be a rematch in St. Louis next weekend. In what you might call predictable, each team won a blowout and a close game at Oracle Park, with San Francisco winning the final two games, including Sunday’s thanks to a Mike Yastrzemski homer. The Giants will wrap up a stretch of 12 of 14 games played at home when they play the Colorado Rockies before flying to St. Louis, while the Cardinals will be back home for a series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Both teams are 16-12, with the Giants tied for third in the very competitive NL West, while the Cardinals are second in the NL Central behind the Milwaukee Brewers. Giants first baseman Brandon Belt sat out the series finale with a neck issue but is expected to return to the lineup vs. the Rockies.

In a rare feat, these two teams will be featured in the Sunday night nationally televised game and neither play in the East Division. Carlos Rodón would be on schedule to start for the Giants, while the Cardinals are still tinkering with their rotation.

 

 

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter @DrummerWrites.

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