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Game #51 Preview: González vs Kikuchi

Twins (30-23) vs Blue Jays (30-20)

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays will look to continue their hot streak and extend their winning streak beyond eight games, as they welcome the Twins to town to open a three game weekend series. The first pitch tonight is set for the regular 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Yusei Kikuchi will make his 10th start of the season, entering play today with a 2-1 record and a pretty good 3.48 ERA. That lone loss on his record came in his first start of the season, and he has certainly looked like a better pitcher since those first few outings. In 26.2 innings since the start of May, Kikuchi has allowed just 7 runs on 17 hits and 11 walks, striking out 31 while allowing just 1 home run. That works out to a 2.36 ERA and a nearly as impressive 2.66 FIP.

Twins’ Starter

The Twins are expected to activate Chi Chi González to make the start for them this evening, taking the spot of the injured Sonny Gray in the rotation. The Twins signed González to a Minor League deal shortly after the lockout ended, looking to provide them with some starting depth as they stashed him in AAA. In 36.2 innings in AAA, González surrendered 16 runs on 32 hits and 14 walks, striking out 35 and giving up 3 home runs. That works out to a 3.44 ERA and a 3.76 FIP for the St. Paul Saints.

The last few years González has spent pitching for the Rockies, in a role similar to what Ross Stripling does. Unlike Stripling though, González hasn’t found much for positive results. In 184.1 innings for the Rockies across parts of 3 seasons, González pitched to a 5-15 record with a 6.10 ERA. He struck out just 118 batters against 71 walks, while allowing 32 home runs, coming out to a 5.48 FIP. He also was hit fairly consistently, giving up a .283 batting average against.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

After taking a ball to the shoulder and then off the helmet, there is certainly some concern over whether Matt Chapman is OK. He stayed in the game and ran the bases, even managing to score a run, so hopefully he wakes up today just fine too.

George Springer sat again yesterday still feeling the ill effects of his non-COVID illness. He wasn’t good enough to pinch hit yesterday. Eventually he’ll be healthier and back in the lineup. Maybe that day is today.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was out of the lineup again yesterday, listed as another rest day. Hopefully his nagging injury is getting better with these off days.

Alejandro Kirk caught last night, so it’s probably back to Danny Jansen behind the plate. That should mean Kirk stays in the lineup as DH.

Twins’ Lineup

As a group, the Twins are hitting .244/.321/.389 (108 wRC+), sitting right in the middle of the pack scoring 4.23 runs per game. Their 53 home runs place them just behind the Blue Jays’ 55, sitting outside the top 10 in the league. Surprisingly, they’ve stolen just 12 bases this year the fourth fewest in all of baseball.

They’ve been bitten by the injury bug a little bit lately, sending top prospect Royce Lewis to the IL earlier this week with a knee injury. He joins slugger Miguel Sanó, who ended up on there a month ago after tearing his meniscus. Big free agent signing Carlos Correa landed on the COVID-IL a couple days ago, and I don’t think he’ll be able to play in this series.

On the bit more positive front, Byron Buxton has had a healthy year so far for the Twins, but is batting just .207/.287/.486 (122 wRC+). He has been hampered by the BABIP bug, as that is coming in at just .200, over .100 points below his career average. His xwOBA is 41 points higher than what he has actually achieved too, so he’s definitely not seeing the results he should be.

Rolling a lefty against this lineup seems to be a good idea, as some of their best healthy hitters are lefties who struggle against same handed pitchers. Luis Arraez (130 wRC+ career vs righties compared to 82 vs lefties) and Max Kepler (114 as opposed to 72) are the biggest culprits, and could very well find themselves out of the lineup tonight against Kikuchi.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Travis d’Arnaud went 3-5 with a pair of home runs, driving in 6 runs to take home the Monster Bat award. He was a key piece of the Braves’ big offensive night in Colorado, beating the Rockies 13-6.

Jace Peterson hit a 3-run triple in the bottom of the 9th, tying the game up and setting himself up as the winning run. He would score a couple pitches later, giving his Brewers the 5-4 win over the visiting Padres. Peterson gets the WPA King trophy with a .700 mark, thanks mostly to that play, although he did have a big single earlier as well.

Jameson Taillon carried a perfect game into the 8th inning, ultimately giving up a pair of hits and a run in that 8th inning, but he still walks home with the Pitcher of the Day award. He struck out 5 and got the win, as the Yankees swept the Angels in their double header, winning Taillon’s game 2-1.

Find the Link

Find the link between Byron Buxton, Matt Chapman and Roberto Pérez.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant