Traditionally, a White Sox visit to Minnesota would be just what the doctor ordered for a struggling Twins team. Hopefully it will be again. The Twins are limping home after a 3-6 road trip and on a five-game losing streak, after losing in particularly gut-wrenching fashion on Thursday. But now they’re back in Target Field, playing on a warm summer weekend (with minimal rain forecast for most of the games) against a White Sox team they haven’t seen since early, frigid April.
The White Sox are doing their best to help our boys out. For the second weekend in a row, the Twins are facing a division rival without seeing the opponent’s best pitcher. White Sox ace Chris Sale, who has a 2.20 ERA (that is not a typo), threw six innings yesterday so despite a four-game series, the Twins will miss him. (Or more accurately, it’s likely Sale that misses the Twins: he has a career record of 5-1 with an ERA of 2.42 against them in six games.)
The Hot Ticket
Remember last year when 27-year-old Andrew Albers blanked the Royals for 8.1 innings in his major league debut? That wasn’t just fun because Albers did well. It was fun because Albers wasn’t supposed to be here; there was almost no chance of him finding his way to The Show before the season started.
The Twins are hoping to have lighting strike again on Thursday. Yohan Pino will be making his major league debut as a 30-year-old. Pino is also not supposed to be here, but the Venezuelan has been toiling between AA and AAA since 2007. This year is actually his second go-round with the Twins. He was a pitcher in their farm system until he was 25, when he was traded for Carl Pavano shortly after the trade deadline in 2009. Since then he has served time with Cleveland, Toronto and Cincinnati before returning to the Twins this year.
His numbers in Rochester have been outstanding, no matter which ones you like. The traditionalists like the 9-1 record and the 1.92 ERA. Stats guys might be more impressed with 61 K in 61 innings, and a nearly 4:1 K:BB rate. Those numbers are even more impressive considering his “stuff” is considered less than pedestrian. He relies on a mid-80s fastball and a killer changeup.
So you have the chance to see something special on Thursday: a guy who shouldn’t be here, with stuff that nobody thinks should play in the majors, could finish writing a dream story in his major league opener. Alternately, everyone could be right and he and his dreams could be crushed.
You want drama? Go to a ballgame.
A Legal Cuban Import
The White Sox starting pitching ranks just above the Twins in ERA (27th overall) but their offense has been reborn since last year’s 29th ranked finish. This year they rank 8th, and a big part of that is their new slugging first baseman Jose Abreu.
Abreu was signed out of Cuba this last offseason to a six-year, $68M contract, which is no small commitment to an unknown. It was the largest-ever contract given to a Cuban free agent – and it’s looking like a bargain. Abreu already has 19 home runs despite having an injury in May, and is slugging .596. Hitting right-handed, he’s actually been better against that side than against southpaws, and has shown no signs of slowing down as the league adjusts to him.
The White Sox have essentially replaced Paul Konerko with Jose Abreu and not missed a beat, which is terrible news for the Twins, who haven’t had that kind of consistent power in the middle of their lineup since Justin Morneau’s relatively short-lived peak years. This will be Abreu’s first visit to Target Field. I wish I could say you better see him now of you might miss him, but he looks like he’s around to stay.
Speaking of Target Field, in a pregame update with reporters last week, Twins GM Terry Ryan said that it looks like Target Field isn’t depressing home runs like it was in its opening year. A quick glance at the statistics shows he’s right.
The Twins and their opponents have hit 56 home runs in games at Target Field. On the road they have hit 57. That’s a little misleading. The Twins have only played 32 of their first 69 games at home. But Target Field is certainly not depressing home runs the way it was early in its existence.
Tickets look tight for Thursday night's game, but there are 10 tickets right behind the Twins dugout if you want to welcome Johan Pino to The Show. Friday your ticket could also get you a Harmon Killebrew 1965 All-Star Game bobblehead. If you want a closer view of Jose Abreu, there are lots of seats down the right field line on Saturday. And if you would rather get a home run ball from him, there are six sections in left field with some availability on Sunday. All are an even better deal if you use the promo code DAILYDOUBLE, which will get you 10% off and supports Twins Daily. Whatever your needs, your local ticket supplier, Ticket King, can help.