This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
The Minnesota Twins host the Boston Red Sox to open their new ballpark at Target Field. After playing in the Metrodome where ground balls would roll forever, they’re playing in an open air stadium with real grass! It will be interesting to see how this changes the games played in Minnesota.
April 12th – Jon Lester vs. Carl Pavano
In Carl Pavano’s one start against the Red Sox in 2009, he threw six innings and allowed 2 runs on 6 hits. The major additions to the Red Sox lineup may favor a Boston win tonight. Newcomers Marco Scutaro, Bill Hall, Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez are combined 16 for 48 with 7 extra base hits.
David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, and Jason Varitek are combined 14 fot 28 against Pavano, which could spell the end of David Ortiz’s early season struggles.
Lester’s one start against the Twins in 2009 was a turning point of sorts for the lefty starter. After giving up 5 runs to the Twins over 6 innings, Lester’s season earned run average peaked over 6.00. After the May 26th start, Lester didn’t allow 5 runs in a game until his second to last start of the season against the New York Yankees.
Part of Lester’s struggles involved Justin Morneau, who has 4 hits in 10 at bats, including a home run in that May 26th start. Brendan Harris has 8 hits in 18 at bats against Lester, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get an at bat against the lefty. In small-sample-size at bats, newcomer Jim Thome and Denard Span have hit Lester as well.
April 14th – John Lackey vs. Kevin Slowey
In his one start against the Red Sox in 2009, Slowey kept the Boston offense to 2 runs in 6 innings. No one currently on the Red Sox has a home run against him. However, Mike Lowell, Adrian Beltre and Victory Martinez are combined 12 for 20 against the righty with 3 doubles. Newcomers Marco Scutaro and Bill Hall are a combined 4 for 19 against Slowey.
John Lackey cannot contain Joe Mauer. The reigning AL MVP hit home runs in each of the last two at bats against Lackey, and has 9 hits in 20 at bats. After Michael Cuddyer’s .313 vs. Lackey, the rest of the Twins lineup has some problems facing the big right hander. In his only start against the Twins in 2009, Lackey limited the damage to two solo shots by Mauer.
April 15th – Tim Wakefield vs. Francisco Liriano
Liriano faced the Red Sox twice in 2009, and gave up a total of 12 runs on 15 hits in 8 innings of work. Not surprisingly, the Red Sox lineup hits a collective .351 against the 26 year old lefty. Jason Varitek is the only hitter on the Red Sox without a hit against Liriano. Even Tug Hulett has a hit in his single at bat against Liriano.
Tim Wakefield’s last start in Minnesota came in 2008 and he gave up 7 runs in 2.2 innings of work. He had some success against the Twins in the Metrodome before then, so it will be interesting to see if the outdoor temperatures of Target Field have an impact on Wakefield’s knuckleball. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are 11 for 28 against Wakefield, while the rest of the lineup has struggled against the specialty pitcher. Jim Thome leads the Twins in career home runs against Wakefield with three, but two of them came more than a decade ago.
Fess Up: In my last series prediction between the Red Sox and Royals, I said the Red Sox would take 2 of 3 and likely lose the matchup against Zach Greinke. I was wrong about which games they won, but I was right that Mike Lowell finally saw some playing time and had himself a hit.
Series Prediction: The new ballpark of Target Field leaves a lot of questions as far as how the ball will travel, but I think we will see a pitching duel to open the Twins’ new ballpark, and at least one game where the Twins pitching staff will be overwhelmed by Boston’s offense. The Boston Red Sox will take 2 of 3 from the Minnesota Twins.