Twins bullpen dazzling against AL Central opponents

The Minnesota Twins’ bullpen has taken its fair share of criticism this season.

Led by rising left-hander Taylor Rogers, the bullpen ranks 12th in baseball (seventh in the American League) with a 4.35 ERA. That number isn’t spectacular, but the Twins’ relievers have shown up when it matters most — against AL Central opponents.

In 142 innings against divisional foes, the Twins’ bullpen has logged a 2.66 ERA. That’s the best mark in MLB against division opponents this season, much better than the league average of 4.72.

Cleveland ranks second with a 2.90 ERA against the AL Central.

Team bullpens vs. divisional opponents

RANK TEAM ERA IP
1 Minnesota Twins 2.66 142
2 Cleveland Indians 2.90 167
3 Houston Astros 3.22 193
4 New York Yankees 3.90 247
5 Los Angeles Dodgers 3.91 182

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Granted, some of that is credited to the weak offenses of the AL Central bottom-dwellers Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit, the latter of which opens a three-game weekend series against Minnesota on Friday night at Target Field.

Rogers has allowed seven runs in 19 2/3 innings (3.20 ERA) against division opponents. Tyler Duffey has the slight edge with a 2.25 ERA. But the Twins’ best reliever when playing the AL Central has been right-hander Ryne Harper.

Harper, who was a 37th-round pick by Atlanta in 2011 and finally made his big-league debut this season with the Twins, has allowed just one earned run in 9 1/3 innings against the division, good for a 0.96 ERA.

Harper has held Detroit scoreless for 2 2/3 innings of work this season, tallying five strikeouts in the process.

Look for that to continue this weekend.

NOTABLE

— Detroit pitchers have a 5.39 ERA at Comerica Park, but that number improves to 4.81 on the road.

— The Tigers throw 62.8% of their pitches in the lower half of the strike zone, which is the highest percentage in the American League. The good news is that the Twins lead all of baseball with 143 homers and a .492 slugging percentage against low strikes.

— Since 1975, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera ranks third all-time with a .331 batting average with runners on base. For reference, Twins legend Rod Carew is second with .349, and Kirby Puckett ranks fifth (.327).

— Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz, Houston’s Yuli Gurriel and New York Yankees infielder Gio Urshela are the only three players with a slash line better than .300/.400/.700 since July 1. Cruz enters Friday’s game with a .336/.417/.820

Jose Berrios, who will start Friday’s series opener, has allowed 15 earned runs in 16 innings over his last three outings. However, he still ranks fourth in the American League with a 65.8% first-pitch strike percentage.

Statistics courtesy Sportradar, baseball-reference.com