Twins hope youth can fuel turnaround, beginning in Baltimore
The Twins swept a series from the Orioles back on July 6-8, playing some of their best baseball of the 2015 campaign.
Alas, that series seems like a distant memory after Minnesota (59-61) endured three straight setbacks in Yankee Stadium earlier this week. But the Twins are presented with another opportunity to improve their faint playoff pulse over the next four days, in Baltimore. The series gets underway Thursday at 6:05 p.m. CT.
The Orioles (62-57) are currently third in the American League's wild-card standings, a half-game behind the Angels and Blue Jays. The Twins are four games back in those same playoff standings, trailing Toronto (66-55), Los Angeles (63-57), the aforementioned Orioles and Texas (61-58). If Minnesota wants to overtake three teams ahead of it in the wild-card race, it will have to cure its road woes -- and fast.
Paul Molitor's club has been woeful on the road since the All-Star Break, especially with regard to its pitching. Since July 17, Minnesota is just 3-13 away from Target Field, with a staff ERA of 6.82.
TWINS ON THE ROAD SINCE ALL-STAR BREAK
Perhaps rookie Tyler Duffey's youthful exuberance can provide the Twins with a lift, however. The 24-year-old righty was impressive in his last outing, in a win over Cleveland. Duffey threw six scoreless innings against the Indians, recording seven strikeouts, as Minnesota won, 4-1.
At Camden Yards, Minnesota could get another jolt courtesy of baseball's top prospect, Byron Buxton. The center fielder was called up from Triple-A Rochester after fellow outfielder Aaron Hicks strained his left hamstring while running out a grounder on Wednesday. Buxton batted just .189 in 11 games with Minnesota in June, before suffering a thumb injury. The speedy, 21-year-old Buxton had hit .400 in 13 games with Rochester.
Minnesota will also need another youngster to be on top of his game in Baltimore, in slugger Miguel Sano. Fortunately, Sano has risen to the occasion of late. Only one AL rookie has more RBI since the All-Star break than Sano's 21 -- Houston's heralded Carlos Correa, with 22 RBI.
MOST RBI BY AL ROOKIES, SINCE ALL-STAR BREAK
|Carlos Correa, Astros||22|
Miguel Sano, Twins
|Francisco Lindor, Indians||15|
|Curt Casali, Rays||14|
|Rusney Castillo, Red Sox||13|
|Delino DeShields, Rangers||13|
The Twins could be catching Baltimore at a bad time, however. The Orioles seek their sixth win in seven games in tonight's series opener, and have seen a surge in production from stars like Chris Davis (1.231 OPS in August) and recent acquisition Gerardo Parra (.444 average in last six games).
Davis has six home runs in his last 10 contests. No team has depended more on the longball than Baltimore since Davis' first full season with the club, in 2012. The Twins have been forced to utilize more of a small-ball approach.
PERCENT OF TOTAL RUNS SCORED FROM HRs, SINCE 2012
Minnesota has gone 9-21 since July 17 but hopes to heat back up in Baltimore. The Twins have won four straight against the Orioles, their most successful streak against Baltimore since winning nine straight matchups from September 2006-August 2007.
Follow Kelly Beaton on Twitter