Eyes open when Twins pitchers are shutting down potent lineups like the Astros and Yankees have, but is Minnesota's up-and-coming starting staff good enough to win in the playoffs?
Coupled with a potent batting order, anything is possible. But when push comes to shove, Minnesota's starting staff still has more to prove to be considered good enough to go head-to-head with the best arms in the American League come October.
With Jose Berrios fairly established as the Twins' best starting pitcher, the next two in line, at the moment, appear to be Jake Odorizzi and Martin Perez, followed by Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda.
Check out each pitcher's 2019 numbers as a starter:
- Berrios: 2.91 ERA, 46 K, 46.1 IP, 0.97 WHIP, .216 OPP AVG
- Odorizzi: 2.78 ERA, 38 K, 38.2 IP, 1.09 WHIP, 1.90 OPP AVG
- Perez: 1.64 ERA, 27 K, 37 IP, 0.97 WHIP, .214 OPP AVG
- Gibson: 4.68 ERA, 29 K, 32.2 IP, 1.32 WHIP, .258 OPP AVG
- Pineda: 6.09 ERA, 30 K, 34 IP, 1.53 WHIP, .314 OPP AVG
Pineda is getting rocked on the regular while Gibson hasn't flashed the ability to dominate the way he did in 2018. But the trio of Berrios, Odorizzi and Perez have been extremely good, allowing a combined total of 32 earned runs in 115 innings. That's good for a combined 2.50 ERA.
Most encouraging is that they're pitching well against potent lineups.
Odorizzi is fresh off back-to-back gems without allowing a run to the Astros and Yankees; Perez pitched eight shutout innings against Houston and followed that up with seven shutout innings in Toronto's hitter-friendly ballpark. Berrios has been rock-solid in six of his seven starts, allowing more than two runs just twice.
In fact, this might surprise some, but Odorizzi, Perez and Berrios have three of the top-10 ERAs in the American League, and that includes Perez's bullpen outings that increase his overall ERA to 2.83.
But in a best-of-five or seven-game playoff series, can Berrios, Odorizzi and Perez hold their own against the other top 1-2-3 punches in the AL?
Astros: Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley
Yankees: James Paxton, Luis Severino, Daniel German
Rays: Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton
Indians: Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Shane Bieber (Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger injured)
Red Sox: Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello
Those are the top staffs in the American League, so regardless of who the Twins face if they reach the playoffs, they'll be opposed by some of the best arms in the game.
Cole and Verlander rank first and third, respectively, in the AL in strikeouts and Miley (3.20 ERA) is a solid left-hander. It'd be very easy to go down two games to none having to face Verlander and Cole, regardless of how well Berrios and Odorizzi are pitching. They're why Houston is arguably the class of the AL, and we're not even getting into how dominating Houston's bullpen is.
The Yankees have a trio of flame-throwers in Paxton, Severino and German. Paxton is battling knee soreness but when healthy he's one of the best lefties in the league, and his 52 strikeouts in 37.2 innings ranks fifth in the AL. German is fresh off a dominating win over the Twins on Sunday, and Severino, although he's out until after the All-Star break because of shoulder inflammation, is as good as they get when healthy.
Tampa Bay boasts the reigning AL Cy Young winner in Snell while adding the electric right arm of Charlie Morton (formerly of Houston) in free agency. They also have Glasnow, whose 1.47 ERA leads the league.
Cleveland's rotation is loaded even without Kluber and Clevinger, who are injured. But Minnesota might not have to worry about the Indians if they simply win the division.
Boston has struggled early this season (17-19) but with Sale and Price they're built for the playoffs, although Minnesota has a history of success against Sale.
Minnesota's trio of Berrios, Odorizzi and Perez are off to very encouraging starts, but matched up against any of the aforementioned staffs, they'd likely be the underdog.