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Two teams heading in opposite directions will begin a three-game series on Friday night when the Houston Astros take on the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Houston took two of three from the Boston Red Sox to start the week, although it dropped Thursday’s series finale by a scored of 12-8 as a -103 favorite to fall to 35-27 on the season. Minnesota is struggling this year at 24-37 after dropping a series to the New York Yankees, although it avoided a sweep with a 7-5 win on Thursday as a +128 underdog.
This is the first meeting between these clubs since last year’s AL Wild Card Series, which ended in a 2-0 sweep for the Astros.
Houston pitching crumbles in Boston
The Astros made a statement over the past 10 days winning five of seven matchups against a very good Red Sox team, but lost Thursday’s series finale in a wild slugfest that featured six lead changes. Yuli Gurriel got the Astros off to a good start with a solo shot in the second with Jose Altuve later going deep and Kyle Tucker adding a bases-clearing double in the fifth, yet Boston would rally each time and take control with a five-run sixth inning.
— Houston Astros (@astros) June 11, 2021
Zack Greinke lasted just three innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and one walk. Houston’s bullpen continued to struggle with Blake Taylor taking the loss for allowing one earned run while getting two outs, with two more unearned runs crossing the plate. Yordan Alvarez went 2-3 with an RBI, a walk, two RBI and a run scored, but it wasn’t enough as Boston pounded out 12 runs on 14 hits.
The Astros are an even 31-31 against the spread, and are up on the money line as they have been one of baseball’s best teams since the start of May. Overs are a strong 37-23-2 for the Astros, with each of their last two games going over the betting total.
The Astros have the best offense in baseball by a number of categories including a 0.778 team OPS, and are averaging 5.37 runs per game for the season. Houston pitching is also just inside the top 10 with a 3.75 collective ERA, although a bullpen that has been put up -0.1 WAR is the weak point of the roster.
Jose Urquidy will make his 11th start of the season on Friday, looking to build on a solid campaign that has seen him post a 4-3 record and 3.76 ERA. The 26-year-old is coming off his worst start of the season last Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays, as he allowed six runs on nine hits in just 4.1 innings while striking out five. Gurriel has been the best hitter in a balance Astros lineup with a 0.940 OPS, nine homers and 45 RBI.
Utilityman Aledmys Diaz went on the IL earlier this week with a fractured hand. Catcher Jason Castro will begin a rehab assignment this weekend as he works back from Achillies discomfort. Starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. is also currently on a rehab assignment as he nears a return from shoulder soreness. Six Astros relievers are currently on the IL, including Pedro Baez (shoulder discomfort), Kent Emanuel (eblow surgery) and Joe Smith (elbow discomfort).
Twins rally with wild walk-off
The Twins are hoping for any sort of bright spot in what has been an awful season, so Thursday’s rally against Aroldis Chapman and the nemesis Yankees was a welcome development. Nelson Cruz was the hero, as he kept Minnesota in the game with a sacrifice fly and RBI double through the first four innings, and walked it off on a two-run homer after Josh Donaldson tied the game on a two-run homer two batters earlier.
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) June 11, 2021
Starter J.A. Happ tossed five innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and one walk with two strikeouts. Hansel Robles was credited for the win for pitching a perfect top of the ninth. Cruz finished 2-2 with a walk and four RBI, while Donaldson was on base three times.
Minnesota is the worst team in the Majors against the spread at 20-42 and are way down on the money line as the two-time defending AL Central champs have fallen short of preseason expectations. Overs are a strong 40-19-3 for the Twins, and only three of their last 10 games have gone under the betting total.
Offense has not been the main source of Minnesota’s problems, as the Twins are averaging 4.59 runs per game with a 0.741 OPS to rank eighth in baseball. Minnesota’s pitching staff ranks fourth worst in the Majors with a 4.87 ERA, including a mark of 5.05 from a struggling starting rotation.
Veteran Matt Shoemaker has been one of the many Twins pitchers who are having a disappointing year with a 7.28 ERA across 11 starts, and will look to get his season back on track Friday night. The 34-year-old recorded just one out last Friday against the Kansas City Royals, allowing eight earned runs on six hits and two walks. Cruz has continued to mash at the age of 40 with an 0.850 OPS, 11 homers and 29 RBI.
Minnesota is missing several key members of its lineup, including star Byron Buxton, who is currently on a rehab assignment as he nears a return from a strained hip flexor. Catcher Mitch Garver is out undergoing groin surgery last week, outfielder Max Kepler is dealing with a strained hamstring, and utilityman Luis Arraez is not ready to return from a strained shoulder. Outfielder Kyle Garlick hit the IL Tuesday with a sports hernia. Ace Kenta Maeda made a rehab start on Wednesday and should be back from a strained groin soon.
Trends via Covers.com. Minnesota is:
- 9-20 in its last 29 games against teams with a winning record.
- 3-12 in its last 15 games against the AL West.
- 8-2 in its last 10 games overall.
- 43-18 in its last 61 games against the AL Central.