Series Preview: Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees (6/24-6/26)

The Yankees will welcome the Minnesota Twins to town for a three game set after splitting a two game series with the Colorado Rockies. The Bombers enter the series as winners of four of their last ten games, and will hope to take advantage of an awful Twins team. Minnesota comes to the Bronx winners of five of their last ten, and have won three in a row. The Yankees have struggled to stay above .500 and hopefully this series will give their underachieving record a boost.

Players to watch
  1. Didi Gregorius: The Yankees shortstop has really elevated his game as of late. He currently sports a batting average of .286 and has driven in 11 runs in his last ten games. He’s been arguably one of the baseball's best against left-handed pitching, as he has a ridiculous .383 average against them. The Twins will send out lefty Tommy Milone in game one of the series, so look for Didi to continue his dominance of left-handed pitching.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images
  1. Nathan Eovaldi: Nasty Nate hasn’t looked so nasty lately, as the right hander has given up 32 hits in his last 20 innings of work. In his last start against the Twins, he allowed four earned runs in five innings and couldn’t establish a consistent strikeout pitch. His ERA for the season currently sits at the high mark of 5.02, so the Yankees will hope that he can turn his season around, as the rotation is currently unstable.

  1. Rob Refsnyder: It’s not the way they planned it, but the Yankees finally have a spot for Rob Refsnyder and his bat, and so far, he’s taken advantage of more consistent playing time. The right hander is hitting a very solid .288 while also playing admirable defense at the tough to learn position of first base. In fact, the recently signed Ike Davis has seen his playing time drastically reduced as a result of Ref’s offensive production. Refsnyder also mashes lefties, as he hits .333 against them. As long as he continues his solid production with the bat, the Yankees will surely be happy with him, despite his defensive shortcomings.

Keys to Victory

  1. Keep the offense coming: The Yankees have actually been doing pretty well offensively lately, averaging 5.1 runs per game in their last ten games. Carlos Beltran has led the offensive resurgence, as he leads the team in home runs, RBI’s and hits. Didi Gregorius and Rob Refsnyder have both stepped up big time and will look to pounce against left hander Tommy Milone. Now, even though the majority of these high scoring games came against the mediocre pitching staffs of the Twins and Rockies, it’s an encouraging trend nonetheless, and the Yankees must take advantage of the weak pitching they’ll face in this three game set.

  1. Get Nathan Eovaldi back on track: As I mentioned above in the players to watch, it is critical that Nathan Eovaldi finds his rhythm in his start this Sunday. The Yankees can’t afford to have him deliever a so-so performance against a subpar Minnesota club. Good baseball teams, not that the Yankees are very good, take advantage of bad teams, and Eovaldi should be able to regroup and minimize the damage of a Twins team that is hitting .247 as a whole.

  1. Get to “No Runs DMC”: This key to victory is pretty obvious, but it needs to be said. When the Yankees hand over the lead to this trio, games are essentially over. Just look at the trio’s latest appearance against the Rockies, 3 IP, 6 K’s and zero hits. Now that is true dominance. Joe Girardi knows how valuable the group is, and he will do everything he can to get them the ball.

Game 1 (6/24): Tommy Milone (0-1, 5.79 ERA) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 2.91 ERA)
Recently called up from AAA, lefty Tommy Milone will take the hill for the Twins, and he will look to lower his ERA of 5.79. He’ll have his work cut out for him, as he’ll be facing one of the league’s best against left handers in Didi Gregorius. Ace Masahiro Tanaka will face off against a Twins lineup that he absolutely dominated last time he faced them. Tanaka went eight innings, allowing seven hits and just one run. With their ace on the hill and facing a pitcher like Milone, this game is really a must win.

Game 2 (6/25): Ervin Santana (2-7, 4.83 ERA) vs. Michael Pineda (3-7, 5.82 ERA)
Game two of the series will showcase two pitchers that are very similar, inconsistent the majority of the time, but capable of spinning a gem. Ervin Santana was somewhere in the middle against the Yankees last time out, tossing seven innings of two run ball allowing just six hits. On the other side, Michael Pineda will toe the rubber. Big Mike is desperately in search of some form of consistency, as the right hander struck out nine Twins last time out, but allowed three earned runs in five innings. However, the big righty has looked better in June, crafting an ERA of 3.38 in 4 starts and racking up 29 K's in 24 innings.

Game 3 (6/26): Tyler Duffey (2-6, 6.18 ERA) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (6-4, 5.02 ERA)
In the series finale, the Yankees will be facing Tyler Duffey, who has allowed at least four runs in seven consecutive starts. There’s not much more to say, other than I wouldn’t be surprised if he dominated the Yankees, well because, it’s that kind of season. Nathan Eovaldi, on the other hand, will be making a very important start for the Yankees, as he’ll look to rebound and continue a once promising 2016 campaign. For Eovaldi to succeed, it will be imperative that he finds consistency with his best pitch, the splitter.

The Yankees will be facing the best team in the AL next week in the Texas Rangers. This so called “soft” part of the schedule will be done by then, and the Yankees should at least win two out of three against the mediocre Minnesota Twins. However, knowing this Yankees team, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they only manage to squeeze out one win. The trade deadline is quickly approaching and if the Yankees don’t make the most of this weekend set, with the Rangers on the horizon, the Yankees might have no other choice but to sell.

Article by: Phil Akre (@philakre)
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