Hits, home runs should fly when Twins meet Mariners

The Minnesota Twins have struggled in Seattle over the past few seasons.

They’re hitting just .200 at T-Mobile Park since the beginning of 2017 heading into a four-game series with the Mariners, and hit just .157 in three games there last year.

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However, these aren’t the Twins of yesteryear.

Minnesota is batting .262 as a team this season, second in the American League, with 76 home runs, which trails only the Mariners and Houston Astros major-league-wide.

Seattle and Minnesota have been piling up all kinds of extra-base hits this season.

The Mariners have three-plus extra-base hits in a league-leading 34 of their 44 games this year, while the Twins have done it 32 times in 42 games, which ranks second.

Catcher Mitch Garver has been among the Twins’ leaders so far.

The 28-year-old is hitting .329/.418/.747 with a 1.164 OPS and nine home runs, but landed on the 10-day injured list earlier this week following a collision at home plate Tuesday.

Fortunately, he’s not the only Twins catcher swinging a hot bat this season.

Twins catchers are outpacing the rest of the league by a considerable margin.

Garver, Jason Castro and Willians Astudillo are hitting a combined .322/.404/.748 with a 1.152 OPS, while averaging a home run every 8.9 at-bats.

Twins Rest of MLB
AVG .322 .233
OBP .404 .307
SLG .748 .389
OPS 1.152 .696
AB/HR 8.9 28.7

Meanwhile, speedy outfielder Byron Buxton is finally shaking off the early-season struggles that have characterized the first few seasons of his major-league career.

Buxton hit his second home run of the season Wednesday in the Twins’ win over the Angels, and is batting .278/.336/.500 with 22 extra-base hits and 16 RBI in 39 games and 137 plate appearances.

It’s far and away the best start of his Twins career.

Buxton hit just .180/.243/.259 in a combined 305 plate appearances from March through April in the first four seasons on his career, with just 16 extra-base hits and 14 RBI total.

Other notes:

— Both teams like to jump on the first pitch. The Twins and Mariners have each hit 14 home runs off first pitches, tied for the most in the majors.

— Both starters in Thursday’s series opener, the Twins’ Michael Pineda and the Mariners’ Erik Swanson, have had success in the first inning. Opposing hitters have a .143 on-base percentage against Pineda in the first inning, which ranks third in the majors, and a .158 OBP against Swanson, which ranks fifth.

— Swanson has a 6.35 ERA over his past five starts, but control hasn’t been the problem. He’s averaging just 1.59 walks per nine innings, second in the AL amongst pitchers with at least five starts this season. Twins ace Jose Berrios, set to go Saturday, ranks fifth at 1.68 BB/9.

Statistics courtesy of Sportradar