Series Preview – Minnesota at Colorado – 7/11/14-7/13/14

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Minnesota Twins (42-49) at Colorado Rockies (39-53)

  • COL at home (23-23)
  • MIN on road (21-27)

Probable Starters:

(IP per-games starters, strikeouts per-nine IP, walks per-nine IP)

Highlight Attraction - All-Star self-serve beer machines, not the actual Twins team is the main attraction at Target Field. The Twins fans and stadium will get their moment to shine next week as they wrap up the first half in Colorado.

Second baseman Dozier is hitting .234 but leads the Twins with 16 home runs, 15 stolen bases and 66 runs scored. He finds a way to get the job done at the plate (51 walks). His 40 RBI’s are second most behind third baseman Trevor Plouffe who has 42 RBI’s and six home runs along with a .239 average. Dozier will represent the Twins on his home field during the Home Run Derby Monday night opposite Troy Tulowitzki‘s NL squad.

Minnesota is ninth in runs scored (378) in the American League and looking for more consistent at-bats in their lineups. Joe Mauer has struggled compared to the expectations he set as one of the best catchers in the game. Now spending time on the disabled list and at first base before that, Mauer was hitting .271/.342/.353 with two home runs and 28 RBI’s. To pile on, his grandfather sided with frustrated fansKurt Suzuki has been a consistent bat playing behind the dish for the Twins as the only regular hitting above .300 (.307/.362/.397). The Twins enter Coors Field winning three-of-four games in Seattle outscoring the Mariners 14-5. In those three wins the Twins hit .262 as a team with one home run, 20 strikeouts and 13 walks.

(Dozier - twinsdaily.com)

(Dozier – twinsdaily.com)

Grab and Go - Minnesota brought in Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Kevin Correia on free-agent deals this past off-season. Hughes and Corriea are eating innings while Nolasco landed on the DL this week.

29 year-old Kris Johnson will start in place of Rickey Nolasco. He’s made one start this season against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Target Field tossing 4 1/3 innings giving up four hits, zero runs with four strikeouts and six walks. Johnson’s a sinker ball pitcher (91 mph) who’ll use a changeup (83.8 mph) and slider (81.6 mph). With the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings he’s thrown 98.1 innings with a 2.75 ERA, 1.18 WHIP with 83 strikeouts and 38 walks.

Corriea found a groove in June giving up 12 runs (11 ER) in five starts with a 3.14 ERA and he’s kept the trend going with back-to-back 6 innings pitched, two run outings in July. A crafty-righty who pitches to contact as hitters make contact on 87.9 percent of pitches swung at. He’ll curve it (76.8 mph, 14.1%), change it (85.2 mph, 14%) and two-seam it (89.7 mph, 19.4%). Teams are slashing .229/.298/.356 against Corriea over his last five starts.

Pin-strips raise the expectations of anyone who dons them. That was the case with Phil Hughes with the New York Yankees. In 2009 as a 23 year-old prospect Hughes went 8-3 with a 3.03 ERA as a reviler/starter. He would win double-digit games twice in the next four seasons but never had an ERA below four. Hughes is leading the way in his first season with the Twins. His 3.70 ERA, 1.174 WHIP in 116.2 IP are top among their starters. Tuesday he was able to put three bad outings behind him going 7 1/3 innings giving up no runs on eight hits against Seattle. He’ll enter Coors Field giving up slightly more fly-balls (142) than groundballs (132). His fastball sits at 92.2 mph as he leans on his four-seam and cutter (15.7%). A knuckle-curve (75.6 mph, 12.8%) is his go to off-speed pitch. Did I mention he has 102 strikeouts and 11 walks on the year? Yep 11 walks.

The core of the Twins bullpen does have one pitcher, right-hander Casey Fien, with a WHIP under one, 0.913. Left-hander Caleb Thielbar (30.1 IP, 1.055 WHIP), Brian  Duensing (35 IP, 1.314 WHIP) and Jared Burton (36 IP, 1.361 WHIP) round out the arms with 30 or more innings pitched. Glen Perkins has 21 saves in 24 chances to go with 48 strikeouts and seven walks. Twins relievers have inherited 129 runners on the season allowing 40 to score.

(Hughes - www.zimbio.com)

(Hughes – www.zimbio.com)

 Lefties Only - Six innings pitched, three hits, two runs, three strikeouts and three walks is the definition of a Jorge De La Rosa start last time out versus the Dodgers. Colorado needed every last ounce out of DLR as their bullpen went on the give up four runs. DLR will be shooting for his fourth straight start of at least six innings pitched.

Tyler Matzek continues to toe the line his rookie season. On track for his third straight quality start, Matzek began the seventh inning trailing San Diego 3-1. A lead-off walk to pitcher Ian Kennedy doomed his day as Chris Denorfia singled, Matt Belisle came in and gave up a two-run triple. Matzek’s final line, 6 IP, eight hits, five runs. When Matzek’s two worst starts of the year came when he walked four batters. Pound the strike zone, good things have happen.

Hey it’s the twitter friendly 26 year-old Brett Anderson returning to the mound. Colorado traded for Anderson in hopes he solidify the top of their rotation. He made three starts before a comebacker broke his finger posting a 3.60 ERA, 1.40 WHIP with five strikeouts and five walks. Teams were hitting him, 16 hits in 15 IP (.276/.328/.397). His 34-to-20 groundball-to-fly-ball ratio was a positive sign over those three starts. At Coors Field ground balls are gold.

(Anderson - www.zimbio.com)

(Anderson – www.zimbio.com)

Those Arms - Winning 2-1 then 6-3 the Rockies got a quality start from Franklin Morales and the bullpen stepping up over two days. They tossed 7 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball in the wins. DLR, Anderson and Matzek can make it even easier for the pen with a strong weekend. Yes it’s only Anderson’s first start off the disabled list but the Rockies are starved for pitching and the pressure falls onto any starter who takes the mound.

Healthy Cargo - Carlos Gonzalez is set to be activated from the disabled list Friday. Getting one of the top one-two punches, Cargo and Troy Tulowitzki, back together is fun for the fans and nice for the Rockies. Drew Stubbs and Corey Dickerson will battle for playing time in left field. Over the past two weeks Stubbs is 16-for-53 with four home runs, seven RBI’s and two stolen bases while Dickerson is 10-of-46 with seven runs scored, one homer and five RBI’s. With Michael Cuddyer‘s return in question having depth benefits the Rockies on the field but also does make bodies available for trade.

Colorado’s riding a homer wave into this series. Charlie Blackmon‘s two-run homer was the difference in their 2-1 win Tuesday. Tulo twice, Blackmon again, Wilin Rosario and Stubbs clearing the wall in their 6-3 series finale victory Wednesday.

Break Time - Eric Garcia McKinley broke down what went wrong in a historically bad first half of the season for the Rockies. Winning two-of-three against the streaking Padres will have the Rockies confident heading into the final three games before the All-Star break. They’ve thrown away too many homestands this year.

“It’s been a rough first half, no doubt,” Tulowitzki said after the Padres series. “The two times I’ve been to the playoffs (in 2007 and ’09), we had to come from behind in the second half. That’s what I’m trying to preach to these guys every day, that we can do it.”

About J.J. Buck

J.J. Buck - Sports radio host in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Also a student at the University of New Mexico. I grew up just outside of Denver in Arvada, Colorado. My parents took me to the first ever Rockies game at Mile High Stadium. While my memories are hazy, I was five years-old, it got me hooked on the game. My passion for sports runs deep. From the Rockies to the Avalanche, a Rocky Mountain sports fan to the bone.
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