Series Preview- Lazy Vacation Edition 2: Minnesota Twins (64-83) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (82-64)
Six runs. In three games, the Toronto Blue Jays held the Tampa Bay Rays, the highest-scoring team in the big leagues, to just six runs thanks to outstanding starts from Alek Manoah, José Berríos, and Robbie Ray.
In a just world, this would’ve been a sweep, but thanks to the combined efforts of Drew Rasmussen and what can only be described as a biblical amount of bad batted ball luck, the Jays had to settle for taking two out of three. My feelings on this can be summed up in a single Against Me! song.
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One of the more aggravating things about stretch runs like this is that you have to hope against hope that shitty teams can do the work of dispatching your competition for you.
Despite the New York Yankees’ best efforts, the New York Yankees took two of three from the Baltimore Orioles, staying in a virtual tie with the Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. Now they’ll host Cleveland for three games, where the Guardians will hope to play spoiler. And they better, if they don’t want to catch these hands.
After fending off a late-inning Red Sox comeback on Monday, the Seattle Mariners couldn’t eke out a series win against Boston and are in danger of falling into irrelevancy for good. They’ll hope to keep the fun differential alive in Kansas City while the Red Sox face the fucking Orioles, Jesus Christ.
Speaking of KC, the Oakland Athletics took two of three against the Royals and will head to Anaheim for a series that they basically need to win to maintain any semblance of relevancy in the Wild Card race.
Only one transaction to report on, and that’s the recalling of left-handed reliever Ryan Borucki, with Trent Thornton going the other way. Coming into the season, Borucki looked to be a fixture in the Jays’ relief corps, and from the beginning of the season until going on the IL in May, that definitely looked to be the case. When he came back in July though, he looked absolutely terrible, owing in large part to both a high walk rate (admittedly part of the deal when it comes to Borucki) and having a hard time getting right-handed hitters out (he’s held lefties to a .095 wOBA, while righties have clobbered him to a .439 wOBA). This culminated in a stay with Triple-A Buffalo, during which he lost big league reps to fellow lefty relievers Tayler Saucedo and Kirby Snead. which is certainly a step back for someone who was seen as something of a poor man’s 2012-17 Andrew Miller. Or as I prefer to think of it, “the second coming of Brett Cecil”.
Borucki hasn’t made an appearance since being called up, with the Jays likely hoping to wait for his optimal situation to build his confidence back up: Some combination of very low leverage and almost entirely against lefty hitters. Should they succeed in doing so, he could prove to be an extremely valuable weapon further down the stretch.
Hitter: Bo Bichette (8) 12 plate appearances, .273/.250/.818, 5 total bases, 2 Weighted Runs Created, 0.05 Win Probability Added, 0.17 WPA/LI
It was a coin flip between Bichette and Teoscar Hernández, but at the end of the day, I leaned Bo due to his clutch hitting on Wednesday as well as for his role as the Jays’ 2021 Roberto Clemente Award nominee for his charitable contributions in both Toronto and his home state of Florida.
Also, how in the goddamn shit did he hit this one out? Bo Forever, man.
Honourable Mentions: Teoscar Hernández, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Pitcher: Alek Manoah (7) 8 innings, 26 batters faced, 1 hit, 0 earned runs, 10 strikeouts, 1.04 FIP, 0.27 Win Probability Added, 0.55 WPA/LI
Manoah and his frisbee-ass slider turned in their best start of the season, turning the mighty Rays offence inside-out. He also became the fastest Blue Jays pitcher to reach 100 career strikeouts, reaching the milestone with start number 17. This beat out Juan Guzmán and Pitcher Win-killer Drew Hutchison, who both took 20 starts, the amateurs. Andrew Stoeten has a write-up on each one of Manoah’s 10 strikeouts, which I highly recommend.
Oh yeah, I guess Robbie Ray was alright too.
Honourable Mentions: Robbie Ray, José Berríos
BEST BIRD STANDINGS
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.- 12
Bo Bichette- 8
Marcus Semien- 7
George Springer- 7
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.- 4
Teoscar Hernández- 3
Joe Panik- 2 (now on the Miami Marlins)
Randal Grichuk- 2
Santiago Espinal- 1
Cavan Biggio- 1 (10-day IL)
Robbie Ray- 14
Hyun Jin Ryu- 9
Alek Manoah- 7
Ross Stripling- 4
Steven Matz- 4
José Berríos- 2
Julian Merryweather- 2
Adam Cimber- 1
Trevor Richards- 1
Anthony Kay- 1 (Triple-A)
Anthony Castro- 1 (Triple-A)
Ryan Borucki- 1
Friday, September 16 (7 p.m. EST/5 p.m. MST): Michael Pineda vs. Hyun Jin Ryu
Saturday, September 17 (3 p.m. EST/1 p.m. MST): Bailey Ober vs. Steven Matz
Sunday, September 18 (1 p.m. EST/11 a.m. MST): TBD vs. José Berríos (presumptive)
Pythagorean Record: 63-84
Run differential: -111 (658 runs scored, 769 runs allowed)
Last 10 games: 4-6
Guess who picked the Twins to win the American League. Me. This big idiot.
Rather than a potent offensive team with a strong rotation led by Kenta Maeda and José Berríos, the Twins have been a tepid offensive team with a pitching situation that could be charitably described as “an absolute shambles”. The Twins’ starting pitcher ERA is 5.16, owing largely to an extremely underwhelming season from Maeda, who is now lost to Tommy John surgery, as well as implosions from veteran Old Friends J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker, who have both been jettisoned.
José Berríos was doing well until he got sent to the Jays, obviously, leaving only veteran Michael Pineda and rookies Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan as the team’s only real usable starting pitchers. Likewise, the bullpen isn’t much to write home about beyond Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Juan Minaya, and Caleb Thielbar, though higher-profile relief signing Álex Colomé has been better since an awful start to the season.
Since the Trade Deadline, the Twins have been in the bottom third of the league for offence. Trading Nelson Cruz will do that to ya. With the elder statesman gone, the bulk of the hitting has been left to Byron Buxton (finally healthy after being out for most of the year), Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, and Josh Donaldson, with slap-hitting super-utility man and contact artist Luis Arráez and Max Kepler is a German league average lefty bat who provides plus defence in right field. On the other hand, Andrelton Simmons has been absolutely abysmal, likely worn down from his season-long battle to resist the Number of the Beast.
And Willians Astudillo has been kind of bad, but no amount of objective statistical analysis can ever dissuade me from buying into La Tortuga’s Hall of Fame case.
Of the players the Twins traded away at the deadline, only Berríos was under team control past 2021, so it’s safe to say the Twins aren’t anticipating a full rebuild. But boy, are they painful to look at right now. Especially when you predicted them to beat the Yankees in the ALCS, Stefan, you big fucking idiot.
Jorge Polanco, Second Base/Shortstop, .276/.330/.514, 126 wRC+
Byron Buxton, Center Field, .287/.332/.601, 149 wRC+
Josh Donaldson, Third Base, .244/.343/.461, 118 wRC+
Luis Arráez, Super Utility, .290/.357/.375, 102 wRC+
Taylor Rogers (10-day IL), Relief Pitcher, 3.35 ERA/2.12 xFIP, 35.5 K%, 4.8 BB%
Andrelton Simmons, Shortstop, .223/.285/.277, 58 wRC+
Griffin Jax, Starting Pitcher, 6.65 ERA/5.69 xFIP, 17.8 K%, 8.2 BB%
Miguel Sano, First Base, .221/.309/.471, 110 wRC+