Wild Card Series, Game 1
Tuesday, October 03 2023 @ 01:00 AM EDT
Contributed by: Magpie
Did we really want the Minnesota Twins to provide the opposition?
Not really - we're just sick to death of the bloody Tampa Bay Rays. It's October, everybody still standing is fully capable of Going All the Way. The 2023 Twins scored more runs than the Blue Jays, and gave up fewer - in fact, no AL team gave up fewer runs than the Twins (dead heat with the Mariners.)
We can be fairly confident that Max Kepler will be in right field and Michael A. Taylor will be in centre. (The Twins didn't allow Byron Buxton to play a single inning in the field this season and he still missed 77 games.) The Twins have some other injury concerns as well. One assumes that shortstop Carlos Correa will be reporting for duty, despite being troubled by plantar fasciitis - we don't know if that's why he hit a very un-Correa like .230/.312/.399 this season, but it's probably why he hit into double plays more often than any other hitter in the American League - yes, even more frequently than Alejandro Kirk. But third baseman Royce Lewis may be limited to playing as the DH. If Lewis can't play third, it will probably be Jorge Polanco who fills in. Unless it's Kyle Farmer. Or Willi Castro. Rocco has some options. And this in turn could leave Buxton serving as a pinch-hitter or off the roster entirely.
They have one catcher who can hit (Ryan Jeffers) and another who's very strong defensively (Christian Vazquez.) Vazquez has started a little more often, but Lopez has been notably better working with Jeffers. Against RH pitchers Alex Kiriloff usually starts at first base and Matt Wallner in LF - Kiriloff and Wallner are strictly platoon bats, and they can count on seeing Mayza or Cabrera in any key game situation.
It's a deep lineup, and one with no real star power, what with Correa having a very ordinary year. Kepler led the team with 24 HR and 66 RBI. But I point it out again - this team can score runs. They draw walks (second in the league) and they hit home runs (tied with Texas for the league lead.) Which will get it done. They strike out quite a bit, too - more than any team in the majors, in fact.
It will be Pablo Lopez on the mound for the first game - you remember him, it's that guy I was urging the Jays to trade for a year ago. Give them Alejandro Kirk, I said. They never listen to me, of course, and it was the Twins who stepped up. They gave the Marlins Luis Arraez in exchange for Lopez, which got it done. Sonny Gray will get the second game, and I'm not sure what Rocco does after that. It would normally be Joe Ryan, but he scuffled quite a bit in the second half.
I don't think Minnesota's staff is as deep as Toronto's, but I also think depth is that thing that gets you through the six months of the season and front-line talent is more likely to be what gets you through the playoffs. Their top starters and the front end of the bullpen can shut down anyone.
Anyway, welcome to October.
Here we go.