Following a disappointing 3-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Monday night, the Minnesota Twins look to right-hander Mike Pelfrey to stabilize the ship and steer the team back in the winning direction. The Twins had ample opportunities to score against Royals’ starter Ervin Santana in the series opener, but could not come up with a big hit to drive in runners who were in scoring position. Kevin Correia also turned in his second solid start of the season by going 7.1 innings, while surrendering only three earned runs on eight hits and earning himself a quality start.
If the Twins can consistently get six to seven innings of three runs or less baseball out of Correia, then the team should be tickled pink. Correia doesn’t have a history of putting together a solid overall season and could regress to the mean over his next few starts as teams around the league get familiar with him. With that being said, the Twins simply have to win the games in which Correia pitches well in if they ever expect to compete in 2013. Correia, Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, Liam Hendriks and whoever occupies the fifth spot in the rotation are not the most overpowering and intimidating pitching staff that history has ever seen. They are bound to pitch some very poor games and some very successful games, but it is imperative that the Twins perform well in the games that the pitchers do pitch well in because there may not be many of them left this season.
If the Twins rotation, as it currently stands plus Scott Diamond and Cole De Vries, can accumulate 90 quality starts in a season—a quality start is when a pitcher completes six innings and gives up three runs or less—then the team must win at least 70-75 out of those ballgames for this team to succeed. It simply isn’t good enough for the team to be happy with their pitchers having a quality start and the lineup not holding up their end of the bargain. Granted the team will face pitchers that are on their game during some starts and will hold their lineup to a below average night, but that cannot be used as a consistent excuse for why the lineup underperforms.
The lineup is clearly one of the strengths of the Twins in 2013, but their lineup is also wildly inconsistent. One game the team can put up nine runs, while the next they can struggle to one. A lot of that can be attributed to inexperience throughout a large portion of the lineup, but the team still can overcome these shortcomings as the season progresses. This is part of baseball and the competitive teams find a way to limit these inconsistencies. The Twins have the potential to be competitive if their pitching continues to hold up and if they do, the lineup must become a consistent force that wins them ballgames.
Luckily for the Twins, they get another chance at the Royals tonight when Pelfrey takes the mound against Jeremy Guthrie. Divisional games are important throughout the season and it is important that the Twins win as many of them as they can early in the season, so they can remain within striking distance at the end of the year. With Guthrie on the mound, the Twins have a good shot to have some opportunities to score early and often. Twins’ hitters have a career .375 batting average against Guthrie and Justin Morneau, in particular, has done well against Guthrie over his career hitting .357 with two HR, five hits and five RBI in 14 career at-bats.
Throughout the season, the Twins must focus on winning series. So far this year, the team is two for two. Tonight they look to put themselves in a position to extend that streak to three for three. It may be too early in the season to start calling games “must win” situations, but the Twins do need this win to keep their confidence in place as they continue on through the early stages of the season. If the Twins can hang around long enough and gain some confidence and momentum this season, anything could happen.
Prediction: Twins 5 – Royals 3