Their day is filled with Shane Greene and the Tigers. Their evening is mostly a jumble of flight reservations and vacation plans. The All-Star break is upon us, and the Twins are looking forward to some relaxation after they wrap up their 89th game today.
Sunday is their 17th in a row without a break, 30th game in 31 days, and 43rd game in 45 days. It’s been quite a haul, and manager Paul Molitor said he’s happy with how well the Twins have held up under the workload. They enter today’s homestand finale with the second-best record in the American League, 4 1/2 games behind the Royals, and would be in first place in the AL East or West.
The reason, as Molitor has pointed out all along, is starting pitching — their 47 quality starts this year trail only the Rays (50), Angels (48) and White Sox (48) for most in the American League. Kyle Gibson is the Twins’ biggest contributor toward that, with 10 quality starts this year, and he’ll finish up the first half for the Twins today, trying to win his fourth straight game.
Gibson has allowed four runs in 20 2/3 innings in his last three starts, a 1.74 ERA, and has limited opponent hitters to a .170 batting average with runners in scoring position, best in the AL. He’s been even better lately; in his last two starts, opponents are 0-for-10 with runners on second or third base.
He’ll be facing Shane Greene, who has beaten the Twins twice this season, including an eight-inning performance with no earned runs during the season’s first week. Greene faltered in May, however, and spent June in the minor leagues; this is his first start back in the majors.
After the game, players are on their own until the team’s flight to Oakland on Thursday evening; they also have the option of meeting the team in California on Friday, when the second half begins. Brian Dozier and Glen Perkins will head to Cincinnati for All-Star festivities, which start tomorrow — Perkins has charted a small plane to take his parents and family with him — while Molitor will stick around St. Paul to spend time with his family. In fact, he’s already started: Molitor is playing catch in the outfield with his son Ben and daughter Julia.
Molitor has set his pitching rotation for the West Coast road trip that will open the second half: Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes and Tommy Milone, in that order, will pitch in Oakland, followed by Gibson, Mike Pelfrey and Santana in Anaheim.
It’s Armed Forces Appreciation Day at Target Field, so there is bunting on the stands and lots of pageantry ahead, complete with the unfurling of a giant flag. The Twins say they are commemorating the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, World War II, and the Civil War, though I’m not sure they’ll have any veterans of that last one here.
Here are the lineups for today’s game, as the Twins try to finish off the homestand with a 6-1 record:
V. Martinez DH
J.D. Martinez RF