MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins rallied to beat the Tigers 3-2 on Friday in eight innings to sweep a doubleheader at Target Field, extending their winning streak to four games. The Twins, who had lost six in a row before this win streak, are in excellent position to make the AL’s eight-team playoff field in this pandemic-shortened season.
The postseason will begin on Sept. 29 with a best-of-three wild card series. One key for Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and Co., will be deciding on who will be the starting pitchers in the wild card round. Until the playoffs arrive, we are going to take our best guess each week at whom the Twins will start in that short series, mixing how we know the team thinks with what also seems to make the most sense.
So here we go:
- Game 1: This is the easy call. Righthander Kenta Maeda has been fantastic this season, going 4-1 with a 2.53 ERA in seven starts. This includes taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning against Milwaukee on Aug. 18. Maeda suffered his first loss of the season in his last outing but still was solid. He gave up three runs and six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in six innings on Aug. 30 in a 3-2 loss at Detroit. If Maeda keeps pitching like he has this season, he will have earned this assignment.
- Game 2: Even as he was struggling, the feeling here was that Baldelli would give the ball to Jose Berrios in this round. Berrios’ strong outing on Wednesday against the White Sox means that’s even more likely now. The righthander gave up only one run on three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in six innings against a good lineup. Berrios is only 3-3 with a 4.29 ERA in eight starts, but the guy we saw pitch on Wednesday is worthy of getting the ball in the playoffs.
- Game 3: This one is going to get interesting, but we are going to start with Michael Pineda in this spot. Yes, Pineda only has one start this season, making it on Tuesday against the White Sox in his return from a 60-game suspension handed down by MLB. The big righthander gave up two runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts in six innings. The two runs both came in the first inning of the Twins’ 3-2 victory. This spot in the projected playoff rotation could change — and if the Twins or their opponent win the first two games it won’t be necessary — but right now we’re guessing Pineda.
- What could change? A lot. Lefthander Rich Hill has the ability to give the Twins a great start — his first outing of the season against St. Louis is an example (no runs, two hits, a walk and two strikeouts in five innings) but he’s also 40 years old and has dealt with a multitude of injury issues throughout his career. Hill spent time on the IL this season because of shoulder fatigue. Hill went only 3.1 innings and threw 65 pitches before tiring in his last start on Monday against the White Sox. Hill’s health could land him in the bullpen in this round, assuming he’s OK to pitch. … There will be many who believe that righthander Randy Dobnak is deserving of a start. He has pitched well this season and improved to 6-2 with a 2.72 ERA on Friday by giving up no runs and four hits in five innings in the first game of the doubleheader. Dobnak could have a big role in the wild card round, coming out of the bullpen and/or being handcuffed to Hill, if he gets a start. … Righthander Jake Odorizzi was expected to be the Twins’ No. 2 starter this season but has had two stints on the injured list and has only made three starts. Odorizzi has an 8.10 ERA in those starts, all of which have come against Kansas City. There is time for Odorizzi to work his way into the playoff rotation but he has to first get healthy.