Minnesota Twins vs Los Angeles Angels

Pick: Twins -120

Is it time to start buying the Minnesota Twins as legitimate AL Central contenders? They have one of the best records and run differentials in baseball, and first-year manger Rocco Baldelli is clearly a top AL Manager of the Year candidate. The Twins had one of the least powerful lineups in baseball a year ago but are among the home-run leaders in 2019. Who saw this coming?

As for the Angels, well, looks like yet another year where a national audience won’t get to see the game’s best player, Mike Trout, play postseason baseball. The club had a completely disastrous eighth inning in Monday’s series opener against Minnesota. First, the Twins broke open a 1-1 game with a two-run Miguel Sano homer in the top half.

In the bottom half and on back-to-back plays, both No. 3 hitter Shohei Ohtani and cleanup Andrelton Simmons went down injured. Ohtani was struck on his right finger by a pitch but X-rays were negative and he shouldn’t miss very long. Simmons, though, gruesomely twisted his ankle while trying to beat out a play at first base and is headed to the injured list for a while, although at least X-rays were negative. One could argue those are the Angels’ two most important players after Trout, and it’s not like the Angels have a ton of depth behind those guys.

Another reason the Twins are surprising this season has been the shocking success of lefty Martin Perez (6-1, 2.89). He was one of the worst pitchers in the majors in 2018 with the Rangers, going 2-7 with a 6.22 ERA and a Wins Above Replacement of minus-0.9. So, in theory, I could have pitched for Texas and been more valuable.

Minnesota took a cheap one-year flier on Perez this offseason and it already has paid off. He has allowed more than three earned just once. Perez comes off a win in Seattle, allowing a run and five hits over 6.2 innings. Just not sure this will continue because he’s also walking too many guys: 22 in 53 innings. Perez has thrown 83 career innings vs. the Angels and is 4-5 with a 4.34 ERA. Trout is hitting just .241 off him in 29 at-bats. Albert Pujols is 10-for-27 with a homer and six RBIs.

The Angels also took a one-year flier this offseason on Matt Harvey (2-3, 6.35), who clearly is never going to be as good as he once was with the Mets again. Harvey has been a bit better of late with a 4.05 ERA over his past five starts, but he struggles to go deep into games with his control.

Since Harvey spent his entire career in the NL before 2019, he has faced the Twins just once and beat them, allowing one run and two hits over eight innings. Only two current Twins have faced Harvey in a regular-season game: Marwin Gonzalez (1-for-2) and Jonathan Schoop (0-for-2).

Doubt Perez keeps this up, but the Halos are without two key guys and have lost their past six at home vs. lefties. Back the Twins.