Two first-place team’s matchup tonight in Minnesota as the Twins host the Braves for game one of a three-game series. Both of these teams did a great job of adding talent at the trade deadline as they both managed to add several impact arms to the bullpen. And both teams needed the help as their respective division races are heating up.
The Braves are looking to hold off the surging Washington Nationals as well as a very talented Philadelphia Phillies squad in the NL East race. For the Twins, they have held onto first place essentially all season long, but the Cleveland Indians made a couple of major moves and all of the sudden the race in the AL Central looks to be a tight one.
Atlanta comes into this series as winners in six of their last ten games. They split a four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend two games apiece. Atlanta has the second-best record in the National League, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers. For Minnesota, the Twins are clinging to a three-game lead over the Indians, a lead that was double-digits not all that long ago. Minnesota enters play tonight red-hot as they have won eight out of their last ten games, including a sweep of the Kansas City Royals in their last series.
Starting for the Twins is Jake Odorizzi (12-5 3.73 ERA), and for the Braves it is Mike Soroka (10-2 2.37 ERA). The game total over-under is set at ten runs. The Twins are -108 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 PM PST from Target Field in Minnesota.
When you look at this recent hot streak for the Twins, it looks like it may have just been a function of some soft scheduling. Their last here series have been against the Royals, Marlins, and White Sox. Those three teams are a combined seventy-one games under .500. I am a firm believer that a win is a win, and you can only beat the team that is in front of you, but weak competition might be propping up this recent run more than improved performance. When you look at how this team was trending before this recent patch of success, they either lost or split their previous three series against the A’s, Yankees, and Mets.
Jake Odorizzi had an almost unbelievably good start to the season this year. At one point in June, he was sitting at 9-2 with a 1.92 ERA. He had a streak of eleven straight Twins wins with him on the mound and made the AL All-Star team. But since then, Odorizzi has really cooled down a lot. He went just 2-2 with a 7.43 ERA in July, and despite having one of the best records in the game, Minnesota had a losing record with Odorizzi pitching on the month.
The big issue for Odorizzi as of late has been the long ball. He allowed just four home runs in his first eleven starts. But has gotten blasted for ten dingers in his last ten starts. After being unhittable for months, Odorizzi has allowed at least three earned runs in six of his last eight starts. It will be quite interesting to see what Odorizzi can do tonight to slow down one of the hardest hitting teams in the National League.
Mike Soroka had a similar start to is season as Odorizzi did, in that he came out of the gates hot. Soroka made his first-ever All-Star team and cemented himself in the rotation for Atlanta. And while he hit a little bit of a skid in June, for the most part, he has managed to maintain his stellar results. The Braves have won ten out of the last eleven games he has started, and on the year, they are 15-4 in his starts.
In three of his last four starts, he has allowed one run of fewer. In his last two starts, he has pitched a combined eleven and two-thirds of an inning and has given up just two earned runs. Surprisingly enough for a young pitcher, Soroka is better on the road than he is at home this season. Way better. On the road this season, he is 6-0 with a 1.20 ERA. Those are Cy Young award level results away from Atlanta for the young hurler.
What a great matchup we have in store for you tonight. Two very good teams that are both playing great right now. So, what separates these two teams? For me, it’s the starting pitching matchup. Both of these teams can hot the ball hard. Both teams are in the top ten of every single offensive category. But Odorizzi has really struggled as of late, and when you are struggling, the last team you want to play is this Braves team that has seemingly endless power.
I think that Odorizzi gets roughed up tonight. And when you look at Soroka, he just doesn’t have bad outings. Only twice all season has he allowed more than three runs in a start. That doesn’t mean he can’t get blasted tonight, he certainly could as this Twins team leads the majors in home runs. It just means it isn’t all that likely. Soroka has allowed just six home runs in 114 innings pitched this season.
Looking at the number, I am not shocked to see the Twins as home favorites. They have been great all season at Target Field, as they are thirteen games over .500. But the Braves, much like Soroka, have been better on the road than they have been at home this season. Atlanta has the most road wins in the NL, by a fairly wide margin. So, the fact that they are on the road doesn’t scare me away from backing them.
This is a very evenly matched game, but I think in the end, the Braves find a way to sneak out of Minnesota with the win tonight in game one. Atlanta did a great job of retooling their bullpen, with the big addition being closer Shane Greene, and now that they have addressed their only weakness, I see them having a really good finish to the season. That starts this week in Minnesota. Give me the Atlanta Braves as road underdogs tonight in game one from Target Field!