The Minnesota Twins open a seven-game homestand on Monday night in Minneapolis against the team that looks likely to end their two-year reign as American League Central champions.
The Chicago White Sox, despite losing two out of three games at Detroit over the weekend, hold a six-game lead over the second-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central and are 14 1/2 games ahead of the last-place Twins.
The White Sox are 8-1 against Minnesota this season, outscoring the Twins 76-37 in the process, and swept a key three-game series with Rocco Baldelli’s squad last week in Chicago.
“We kind of made a statement,” catcher Zack Collins said after Chicago’s 8-5 victory in the series finale on Thursday afternoon. “It was pretty big.”
“I wouldn’t say anything is permanent in baseball until the season is over,” Collins added. “But them coming in, us sweeping them — it was a huge series for us.”
Minnesota finished just 1-5 on the road trip, salvaging a 6-2 win at Kansas City on Sunday afternoon behind a brilliant start by Kenta Maeda.
Maeda, the 2020 runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award to Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, held the Royals to just two singles over six shutout innings while striking out a season-high 10 batters.
“That is the Kenta Maeda that we’ve seen a lot of,” said Baldelli. “Shoot, all the way around, no matter which way you look at this, it’s a marvelous outing. I think he got even stronger as (the) outing went on. … That was a helluva outing.”
Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff each homered, and Luis Arraez went 3-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored to lead Minnesota offensively. And the Twins did it without designated hitter Nelson Cruz (stiff neck) and third baseman Josh Donaldson (tight hamstring) in the lineup.
Baldelli said it was possible that Donaldson, who got into a well-chronicled spat with Chicago starter Lucas Giolito over the use of sticky substances after hitting a home run off him last week, could be back in the lineup for Monday night’s opener. Cruz, meanwhile, who is hitting .306 with 18 homers, found out afterward that he had been selected to his seventh All-Star Game on July 13 at Coors Field in Denver. The 41-year-old is the oldest All-Star selected since Trevor Hoffman in 2009.
“The way he’s playing, (the way) he stays healthy and takes care of himself, he looks better than a lot of guys 10 years younger than him,” said Baldelli. “He’s been a rock in the middle of the lineup.”
Chicago will be well represented in Denver with starting pitchers Carlos Rodon and Lance Lynn and closer Liam Hendriks all selected to the team. Rodon and Lynn are scheduled to start Tuesday and Wednesday against the Twins. With an off day on Thursday, that means both should be fully rested for the game.
Right-hander Dylan Cease (7-3, 3.75 ERA) will start Monday night’s opener for Chicago and will be opposed by 6-foot-9 right-hander Bailey Ober (0-1, 5.84) in a rematch of Wednesday’s game in Chicago won by the White Sox, 13-3. Cease, who is 1-2 with a 7.54 ERA in five career starts against the Twins, picked up the win in that one allowing two runs — solo homers to Donaldson and Cruz — on three hits over six innings while striking out seven.
This will be Ober’s seventh major league start and third against the White Sox. He took the loss on Wednesday, allowing five runs, including home runs by Brian Goodwin, Andrew Vaughn and Jose Abreu, on four hits over 3 1/3 innings. He has an 11.05 ERA against Chicago.
–Field Level Media