Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke looked stellar his last time out

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Front office duo Derek Falvey and Thad Levine hoped their off-season work to retool the Minnesota Twins would result in a return to supremacy in the American League Central.

Projected by many to challenge the Cleveland Indians for the division title, first-year manager Rocco Baldelli has taken a team that seemingly overachieved the past couple of years and transitioned it into an early force this season.

After opening a three-game series in Houston with a 9-4 win over the Astros on Monday, the Twins sat in first place, 1 1/2 games in front of Cleveland, and riding a four-game win streak. With an 8-3 road mark, the Twins were tied for third-most road wins in baseball.

Minnesota has seen and hit the ball well the first month of the season, as it was tied with the Astros for first overall at .277. The Twins also boast the seventh-best on-base percentage (.345), the second-best slugging percentage (.512) and second-highest OPS (on-base plus slugging) at .857.

It’s no secret much of their early success has been due to offense, as the Twins had produced a 24-run differential after routing the Astros in their series lid-lifter.

Jorge Polanco, who had four hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs to lead the Twins to their fourth straight victory on Monday, was hitting .392 heading into Tuesday’s action. He ranked second with a 1.169 OPS, one of just 11 American League hitters with an OPS higher than 1.000.

Chipping in on offense has been Byron Buxton, who led the league with 12 doubles heading into the team’s second game with Houston. Of his 19 total hits this season, 13 went for extra bases as he also had a triple.

In the long ball department, it’s been Eddie Rosario cranking home runs for the Twinkies. With nine home runs, he was tied for fifth in the league and second on the junior circuit. He needs one more shot to become the fifth Twin since 2009 to hit 10 or more home runs in a month.

Minnesota’s 13-7 mark over its first 20 games produced a net profit of $675 for $100 bettors. That profit margin could increase over the next week, as the Twins return to Minneapolis for seven games against the Baltimore Orioles and Houston.

Look for value with the Twins, and don’t be afraid to play the run line, considering eight of their 13 wins have been by two or more runs.

Thursday

Arizona Diamondbacks at Pittsburgh Pirates: I’m going to play this matinee and will advise to list both Zack Greinke and Jameson Taillon. Greinke looked stellar his last time out, limiting the Chicago Cubs to just three hits over six shutout innings. Greinke is 8-4 lifetime against the Pirates, so confidence should accompany him to the hill. The right-hander has also been a bit of a threat with the bat as well this year, as he’s gone 5-for-10 with a pair of home runs. Taillon did record his first win of the season, but he’s still 1-2 and I trust Greinke in this spot much more than I do Pittsburgh’s young righty. DIAMONDBACKS

Friday

Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies: Though Jerad Eickhoff lost his season debut in the Phillies’ rotation Sunday in Colorado, he didn’t pitch that bad. Considering he had to open his season at Coors Field, I’ll look at the positives rather than the negative. He mixed up his pitches well and allowed just one run over his first five innings before struggling with his command and getting pelted for three runs in the sixth. It was his durability and competitiveness that impressed me, and I think that’ll carry over to his first home start of the campaign. 

I’m going to list him against Jose Urena, who has improved over his last three starts, but is still nursing a 5.74 ERA. The Phils will be looking to exact a bit of revenge after he silenced them to one run over seven innings with seven strikeouts in South Beach. PHILLIES

Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins: I’ll jump on the bandwagon with my own claim about the Twins’ offense and the value it can bring to your wallet. As of Tuesday, the Orioles were in last place in the American League East, they were riding a four-game losing streak and had lost seven of 10. Even worse, they had been outscored by 56 runs through 24 games, and the 161 runs they had allowed were most in the bigs. Baltimore’s ERA ballooned to 6.37, while opponents were hitting .290 against its staff. 

This is a perfect spot to play the Twins on the run line, regardless who is throwing, as they should win this series-opener at Target Field with ease. TWINS

Last week: 3-0

Season: 5-4

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About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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