This week in baseball is jam-packed with division showdowns. The Twins head to Cleveland to reinforce their lead, the Blue Jays host the Red Sox to try and gain some ground, and the Padres head to Los Angeles to fight for first place.
The Twins Head to Cleveland
After dropping four in a row, the Guardians’ first-place spot in the AL Central was overtaken by the Twins. Cleveland will try to find its way back atop their division this week when they host the Twins.
The Twins hold the momentum heading into this series after winning their weekend set against the Rockies. Just a week ago, however, Minnesota dropped a series to the Guardians at home. Byron Buxton only participated in one of those games and went 0-for-4 in it. Coming into this series, the outfielder is coming off a decent weekend and a Sunday game in which he went 3-for-4 with two extra-base hits.
Surrounding Buxton, the Twins’ lineup has found some sort of groove. Luis Arraez‘s offseason work has paid off and he is nearly hitting .350 with an on-base percentage of .427. In addition, premium signing Carlos Correa has found his way over the .300 mark and is finally earning his keep. Despite some numbers that might seem sub-optimal, almost all of the batters in Minnesota’s lineup are above average by OPS+.
Even with the Twins’ advantage, Terry Francona’s ability to manage his team to victory should never be overlooked. He has taken a team that nearly traded its best player prior to the season and was seemingly still rebuilding to contending for a division championship.
The Guardians’ recent success has been mostly due to its pitching staff. Three-fifths of their starting rotation has been impressive so far and they have one of the best bullpens in baseball.
As witnessed over the weekend, Cleveland cannot survive off its pitching alone. José Ramírez knocked in just one run during the series against Boston. The pitching is good, but not good enough for its offense to only score a few runs per game. Ramírez and Andrés Giménez, among others, must step up.
Sonny Gray will face Triston McKenzie in game one. First pitch is scheduled for Monday evening at 7:10 PM EST.
𝙉𝙤𝙩𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙤𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙚𝙖𝙢𝙨: 𝘽𝙮𝙧𝙤𝙣 𝘽𝙪𝙭𝙩𝙤𝙣 𝙞𝙨 𝙛𝙖𝙨𝙩.#MNTwins pic.twitter.com/TblIpZ9pLW
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) June 26, 2022
The Sox Go North
The Red Sox head to Toronto this week to try and improve their record against AL East opponents, while the Blue Jays host the Red Sox to try to protect their wild card position. Boston has only won a small handful of games against division opponents so far. Most of those games occurred before the Red Sox turned their season around, but it is still one of the few blemishes left from their bad start.
The Blue Jays have won five of their seven games against Boston this season. They now, however, find themselves having lost 7 of their last 10 and hanging on to the last AL wild card spot. Over the last week, Bo Bichette has hit under the Mendoza Line and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hasn’t hit a single home run. Alejandro Kirk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. have helped keep pace, but that has not been enough to win games.
Toronto’s pitching has also taken a beating as of late with José Berríos having given up 17 earned runs over his last 13.2 innings and Kevin Gausman allowing seven earned runs over his last 8.1 frames.
Boston has dropped just four games in the month of June and is coming off a sweep of the Guardians in Cleveland. They will, nevertheless, lose their leadoff hitter and closer, who have both proven to be extremely valuable recently, for the duration of the series due to vaccination status. Additionally, with Garrett Whitlock and Nathan Eovaldi still on the injured list, Boston’s pitching for this series is somewhat of a question mark.
Connor Seabold will go in game one against Gausman. Seabold has been nothing but great in Triple-A this year, but this is his first major league appearance this season. Michael Wacha against Ross Stripling in game two and Nick Pivetta against Alek Manoah in game three should shape into great pitching matchups.
The series begins on Monday and all three games start at 7:07 PM EST.
🚨 GRAND SLAM 🚨
Bo Bichette hits his first career grand-slam in the bottom of the 8th vs. the Red Sox! 🔥
(🎥: @BlueJays) pic.twitter.com/WABUwVZI8A
— theScore (@theScore) April 26, 2022
Padres @ Dodgers
The Padres head to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers this weekend. Game one will mark just the fourth time the two teams have faced off in 2022. In their first series this season, the Dodgers easily won the series. But with Manny Machado expected to return to the lineup prior to the weekend, there is potential for this series to take a different turn.
After a tough stretch in which they got swept by the Pirates and Giants and then lost a series to the Guardians, the Dodgers seem to have found their footing recently with a sweep of the Reds and a series win in Atlanta. With Mookie Betts injured, Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner have stepped up recently. Over the last couple of weeks, they both have posted OPS marks over 1.000.
Los Angeles’ pitching has also remained consistent in the absence of Betts. Tony Gonsolin, who will face MacKenzie Gore in game two, has allowed just three earned runs in his last 17 innings of work and has punched out three times the number of batters he has walked.
San Diego’s offense has been able to hold down the fort in their third baseman’s absence. Eric Hosmer has been tearing it up in the batter’s box, and Jorge Alfaro and Austin Nola have stepped up mightily to help their team tread water over the last week.
Without Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres vs. Dodgers series lose some of its drama, but with the two teams’ proximity in the standings, this series is sure to be entertaining.
Game one will be on Thursday night at 10:10 PM EST and will be nationally televised on FS1.
Freddie Freeman rips one down the line and the Dodgers are on top! pic.twitter.com/64JKghwm2T
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) June 27, 2022
Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)