CHICAGO — The Twins have arrived in a city that’s abuzz about baseball.
This weekend’s games here are a real test of each team’s strength, and will be watched closely by the entire sport. They could have ramifications beyond just this month, perhaps even impacting trade-deadline decisions late this season. And just from a fan’s standpoint, you have to admit, a showdown like this carries a lot of intrigue, doesn’t it? These games should be a lot of fun.
But enough about the Cubs and Nationals, whose four-game set pitting the major league’s two best records gets underway tonight at Wrigley Field. The Twins are here for a three-game series that will be contested just a few miles away but feels light-years distant from those pennant-race considerations.
The Twins are 2-12 on the road and arrive at U.S. Cellular Field just as the White Sox are rolling, having won nine of their last 12 (and with another game tonight against Boston). Yes, having dropped two of three to the last-place Astros, including a 16-4 nadir on Wednesday night, hooray, the Twins now take on the team with the AL’s best record.
Chicago has done it with pitching — the White Sox have allowed an AL-leading 83 runs, or a full 40 percent fewer than the Twins league-most 140 — and Minnesota will experience the best its quasi-rival has to offer. Chicago’s starters have a cumulative 3.09 ERA, and that’s counting the four starts (and 7.25 ERA) of veteran lefty John Danks, who was released this week.
Six AL starters own ERAs under 2.00, and the Twins will face half of them this weekend — Mat Latos (1.84) on Friday, Chris Sale (1.66) on Saturday night, and Jose Quintana (1.40) on Sunday. The Twins could do little with Latos and Quintana in Target Field last month, collecting two runs in 12 innings against them.
Sale is a more intriguing matchup, however, given the Twins’ bizarre domination of the lefthander a year ago. Sale finished with a 3.41 ERA and was fourth in Cy Young balloting, and it’s possible that the Twins cost him that trophy. In five of his six starts vs. Minnesota, Sale got cuffed around; he allowed four runs or more just 10 times all season, and five of them were against the Twins. Three times they scored six or more runs, and all together, they scored more than one-third of all the runs Sale surrendered in 2015.
Take away those five starts against the Twins, and Sale’s numbers become a 13-7 record and a 2.57 ERA. Say he dominated them the way he had in the past, and Sale might wrest the Cy Young Award from Dallas Keuchel, or at least make the Keuchel-David Price race a three-way competition.
If the Twins can’t continue their mastery of Sale, it could be a long weekend for the run-challenged visitors. Then again, they beat Keuchel on Monday, right?