CHICAGO — Paul Molitor is bugged, at least a little, by a handful of games on this road trip that the Twins could have won. The night Kyle Gibson gave up four runs in the first inning and nothing afterward, for instance, or the game in Houston lost to the Astros’ five-run seventh.
But they left Minneapolis 10 days ago, and today the Twins wrap up their three-city tour exactly where at the some spot in the standings where they left: One game behind the Rangers for a wild-card spot.
“We’ve held our own. We’re at a stage where, if you have a really bad trip, you might take yourself out of it, and we’ve been able to hold our own,” Molitor said. “There have been some games we haven’t won that we had a chance to, but the fact that we’re going home for a nice [10-game] homestand — regardless of what happens today, we still have hope. I’ll take it.”
The Twins are 4-4 on this trip, and face Chris Sale in the finale, a task that would seem daunting for any other team. But Sale, the AL strikeout leader, has stumbled repeatedly against the Twins this season, for reasons nobody can fathom. Sale has faced Minnesota in all five previous series between the teams this year, and the Twins have won each of the last four. Sale’s ERA against the Twins is 6.30 this year, 2.73 against everyone else.
“I don’t know if there’s a logical explanation to it. It’s not like we’re real excited about the prospect of having to face him half a dozen times in a given year, but we’ve had some guys who have had really good days against him,” Molitor said. “I think [Sale] is fully aware of what has transpired this year.”
Kyle Gibson starts for the Twins, with Kurt Suzuki — whom Molitor likes catching Gibson because of all the sinkers that wind up in the dirt — behind the plate, despite having played last night. Byron Buxton, 0-for-7 with six strikeouts against Sale, will sit out today with Eddie Rosario back in the lineup.
“Byron has had a rough couple of starts against this guy,” Molitor said. “Much as I like how he’s been playing defense, I’ve got to find that fine line between making sure we have offense as well as defense.”
Here are the lineups for today’s 1:10 p.m. game: