Two teams thinking about their futures will square off for a three-game series beginning Friday night, when the Minnesota Twins travel to Kansas City to play the Royals.
The only difference is how far those future thoughts stretch.
The Twins have not announced a starter for any of the games against the Royals. Kansas City will send left-hander Eric Skoglund (0-2, 7.50 ERA) to the mound.
For the Twins, the recently crowned American League Central champs, the future means where they’ll play their American League Division Series matchup beginning Oct. 4.
Their opponent likely will be the Yankees, though New York has an outside chance of overtaking the Houston Astros for the top spot in the AL. With their 10-4 victory over Detroit, the Twins still have a slim chance of overtaking the Yankees for the second seed, which means they would gain the home-field advantage.
The Twins became the first major league team to hit 300 home runs in a season when Jonathan Schoop hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning Thursday. Moments later, they hit their 301st, a solo shot by Willians Astudillo.
Lost in the shuffle might be the fact that the Twins have 99 wins. A sweep of the Royals will tie the franchise record of 102 set in 1965.
“That’s a lot of wins,” manager Rocco Baldelli said before Thursday’s game. “We’ve put ourselves in a really good position. Where we’re sitting now is exactly where we wanted to be. We’re going to get ourselves lined up as best we can going forward, and I hope that leads to some wins. If it doesn’t, there’s nothing we can really do about that, but that’s OK.”
The Royals will be thinking about 2020 and probably beyond that. The series will conclude the Royals’ second straight 100-loss season, but help appears to be on the way. Their biggest weakness is pitching, and their top prospects are in Double-A and Single-A, rapidly moving up the organization chart. If their young offensive core can repeat their strong 2019 seasons, respectability isn’t far down the road.
Whit Merrifield is likely to become just the second right-handed hitter to lead the major leagues in hits in back-to-back seasons (Kirby Puckett, in 1988-89). With 201, he has a five-hit lead on his closest competitor, Rafael Devers of the Boston Red Sox.
Jorge Soler is tied with Mike Trout for the AL home run lead with 45. With one more home run, he’d become the first Royals player to lead the league in homers. And there are others who are producing well.
But the problem remains the pitching
“Our pitching needs to improve in terms of pitch execution,” Royals manager Ned Yost said Wednesday night after the bullpen gave up eight runs in a 10-2 loss to the Braves. “We make a lot of mistakes. We struggle to command down and away. Look, saying this is really easy. Doing this is really hard. It takes a lot of work to be able to do it. You have to be able to suppress offense, suppress power, by execution on pitches down and away. We just make way too many mistakes.”
Skoglund suffered his second loss of the year last Friday in Minneapolis, as the Royals fell 4-3. Making his first start since Aug. 30, Skoglund yielded two runs in the first inning but retired nine of 10 batters after that, completing four innings (three hits, one walk).
Friday night will mark the first time in his career that Skoglund has faced an opponent in consecutive outings. He owns an 0-1 record and 5.00 ERA in three career appearances (one start) vs. the Twins.
–Field Level Media
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