Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins
Dates: Friday, September 1, 2017 – Sunday, September 3, 2017
Location: Target Field, Minneapolis, MN
The Royals are slumping badly and will be happy to see the calendar flip to September. At 10-18 their August likely doomed their chances for a postseason appearances. While the overall numbers for the month are bad, their more recent ones are even worse. Kansas City has one win in their last seven games. They went four straight games—and 45 consecutive innings—without scoring a run. They’ve been shut out 14 times this season and their offensive issues may not even be the biggest concern for this club.
How the Twins have been able to sustain their success is a mystery. When they began to slide in July the front office opted to sell, giving up on the season. Despite that, here the team is: the second wild card if the season were to end today. Minnesota has owned the Twins and have much more confidence going into this series. They’ve got plenty to play for and are 10-4 in their last 14 games. They went 20-10 in August. They’re getting contributions from every spot in the order and Byron Buxton is back to showing flashes of what made him the top prospect in baseball a few years ago. He did leave the game with an injury on Thursday so his status be worth watching heading into the weekend.
Game 1 Probable Pitchers – Friday, September 1, 2017, 8:10 p.m. ET ( Local TV )
Jason Hammel ( Royals ) vs. Dillon Gee ( Twins )
Jason Hammel had a rough first couple of months, but the last few have been better. That’s a role reversal for the righty from years past when he would tire and regress as the season wore on. That’s still a threat as the calendar flips to September. His career ERA in September is 5.04, the second worst month of his career. Even with the slow start this year, Hammel has now seen his numbers trickle up the last three months. He found himself in June, pitching to a 2.51 ERA and has posted a 4.75 in July and 4.80 in August. Overall, he’s 6-10 with a 4.76 ERA and has allowed at least three runs in six of his last seven games and nine of his last 11. He doesn’t usually get blown out, but he’ll give up his runs, too.
Dillon Gee is just the current starting pitcher du jour on the rotational marry-go-round for the Twins. The former Royal has just 35.2 Major League innings this season split between Texas and Minnesota. In six games with the Twins—two starts—he’s had good results, allowing eight runs on 20 hits in 22.2 innings. The down side is the three homers he’s allowed, though he’s always been home run prone. Fortunately for him, KC isn’t a homer-centric team. Gee will need to bounce back from a rough outing. He allowed four runs in four innings in his last start, losing to the Blue Jays.
Game 2 Probable Pitchers – Saturday, September 2, 2017, 7:10 p.m. ET ( Local TV )
Ian Kennedy ( Royals ) vs. Kyle Gibson ( Twins )
Throughout his career, Ian Kennedy has served as an innings eater. That term can be a positive or a negative. It’s been both in his career, but this year, it’s generally a negative. He’s pitched 130 innings, but that haven’t been quality innings. He’s 4-10 with a 5.47 ERA which is in line with his 5.54 FIP. Compared to years past, his walks and homers allowed are up and his strikeouts are down. That’s a dangerous combination. He’s allowed at least two homers in four straight games and while the Twins are without Miguel Sano, they can still drive them out if Kennedy hangs them. After all, Brian Dozier was a 40-homer bat last year and has 26 bombs this season.
Kyle Gibson is another veteran arm that’s during his worst season to date—or at least his worst complete season. In 23 starts, Gibson is 8-10 with a 5.59 ERA and 1.651 WHIP. He’s been incredibly hittable with 11 hits allowed per nine innings. He’s also added nearly four walks a game on top of that. While Gibson has been bad all year, he’s been a bit better in the second half with a 4.18 ERA and a bit better at home with a 4.60 ERA. Neither of those numbers are particularly good, but they’re strong enough that this game isn’t lost before it starts.
Game 3 Probable Pitchers – Sunday, September 3, 2017, 2:10 p.m. ET ( Local TV )
Jake Junis ( Royals ) vs. Ervin Santana ( Twins )
The 24-year old rookie has certainly earned his keep in the rotation. He’s pitched better as a starter than in his couple stints out of the pen and has allowed only one run in each of his last two games. He’s made four starts in August and has allowed two runs or fewer in each. He faced the Twins in his first start of the year and had some command issues. He’s made serious strides since then. He’s especially fond of pitching at home where he’s posted a 3.62 ERA compared to a 5.23 road ERA in nearly the same number of innings. Interestingly, he’s got a better WHIP on the road. The biggest difference is his home run rate.
Ervin Santana has pitched extremely well in 2017. He’s 14-7 with a 3.27 ERA and 1.136 WHIP. He’s tops in the AL in complete games with five and shutouts with three. While his FIP sits at 4.57 and tells a story of someone overperforming his peripheral numbers, he’s managed to continue his production over a solid 27 game sample size. Santana has thrown three consecutive quality starts and does have a seven innings, one-run game against the Royals this year. That said, he also has a seven-run, 5.1 inning appearance against them, too. While most of the KC lineup will have mixed emotions going up against Santana, there’s one who won’t: Eric Hosmer. Hosmer has been great against the Twins’ ace. He’s 9-for-29 with a pair of doubles, four homers and 14 RBIs.