Time for Twins to Bury Guardians’ Playoff Hopes

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Guardians
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins have 25 games remaining on their 2023 schedule and the next three will be at Progressive Field vs the Cleveland Guardians — the only AL Central competitor within (semi)realistic reach of stealing their division crown. Game 1 is Monday evening, at 5:10 PM on Bally Sports North. If your stream/cable/dish provider doesn’t offer BSN, sign up for Fubo TV’s 7-day trial and watch the Twins vs Guardians series for free.

Twins vs Guardians: What’s on the line this week?

Minnesota landed in Cleveland last night, up 5 games up in the division, with a 95% chance (Fangraphs.com) at winning it and making the playoffs. In order to retain any hope whatsoever of catching the 1st place Twins, before the season expires on October 1, the Guardians must take two of three this week, maybe even sweep.

For the Twins, this is their 2nd opportunity in the last 1.5 weeks to bury their most competitive division foe and burst any dream bubbles their fanbase still has about playing in the 2023 postseason. Twins manager, Rocco Baldelli, said as much after his club failed to sweep the Texas Rangers on getaway Sunday.

“We’re playing good baseball. The guys are working hard, and I think we’re ready,. The guys know what we’ve got to accomplish, and I’m excited to watch it.”

Rocco Baldelli (via Star Tribune)

Upcoming Schedules Favor Minnesota Twins

In all reality, and when you bring context into the conversation like I will below, the Guardians need a sweep if they are going to put any heat on the Twins, down the stretch. If they fail there’s no realistic path to a Guardians postseason berth, given the remaining schedule they and the Twins have remaining.

After Wednesday’s finale in Cleveland, Minnesota will have 7 series remaining in the 2023 season. Just two of those series (Rays, Reds) are against playoff contenders with > .500 record. The Guardians have 8 series left to play and FOUR of them (Giants, Rangers, Orioles, Reds) are vs playoff contenders with > .500 records.

TimeGuardians OpponentsDateTwins OpponentsTime
5:10 PMvs Minnesota (71-66)Mon, Sep 4@ Cleveland (66-71)5:10 PM
5:10 PMvs MinnesotaTue, Sep 5@ Cleveland5:10 PM
12:10 PMvs MinnesotaWed, Sep 6@ Cleveland12:10 PM
8:38 PM@ Angels (64-73)Thur, Sep 7OFF
8:38 PM@ AngelsFri, Sep 8vs New York (68-69)7:10 PM
8:07 PM@ AngelsSat, Sep 9vs New York1:10 PM
3:07 PM@ AngelsSun, Sep 10vs New York1:10 PM
8:45 PM@ San Francisco (70-67)Mon, Sep 11vs Tampa Bay (83-54)6:40 PM
8:45 PM@ San FranciscoTue, Sep 12vs Tampa Bay6:40 PM
2:45 PM@ San FranciscoWed, Sep 13vs Tampa Bay12:10 PM
OFFThu, Sep 14@ White Sox (53-84)6:40 PM
6:10 PMvs Texas (76-60)Fri, Sep 15@ White Sox6:40 PM
5:10 PMvs TexasSat, Sep 16@ White Sox6:10 PM
12:40 PMvs TexasSun, Sep 17@ White Sox1:10 PM
1:10 PM@ Kansas City (42-96)Mon, Sep 18@ Cincinnati (71-68)5:40 PM
6:40 PM@ Kansas CityTue, Sep 19@ Cincinnati5:40 PM
1:10 PM@ Kansas CityWed, Sep 20@ Cincinnati11:35 AM
6:10 PMvs Baltimore (85-51)Thur, Sep 21OFF
6:10 PMvs BaltimoreFri, Sep 22vs Angels (64-73)7:10 PM
5:10 PMvs BaltimoreSat, Sep 23vs Angels1:10 PM
12:40 PMvs BaltimoreSun, Sep 24vs Angels1:10 PM
OFFMon, Sep 25OFF
5:10 PMvs Cincinnati (71-68)Tue, Sep 26vs Oakland (42-95)6:40 PM
5:10 PMvs CincinnatiWed, Sep 27vs Oakland6:40 PM
OFFThu, Sep 28vs Oakland12:10 PM
5:40 PM@ Detroit (63-74)Fri, Sep 29@ Colorado (50-86)7:10 PM
12:10 PM@ DetroitSat, Sep 30@ Colorado7:10 PM
2:10 PM@ DetroitSun, Oct 1@ Colorado2:10 PM
via ESPN

Minnesota has more talented depth and fire-power than Cleveland does, even after the Guardians claimed the three best pitchers waived by LAA last week, ahead of the Twins. But Rocco Baldelli & Co are expecting the return of Alex Kirilloff, Jorge Alcala, Chris Paddack and Byron Buxton from the injured list, sometime in September, too.

Guardians to face Twins’ best pitchers

So to reiterate: Cleveland needs to win (probably sweep) this week’s opening series vs the Twins. But doing so will be much easier said, than done. That’s because the Guardians will have to beat the Twins’ best two starting pitchers, Pablo Lopez (164 IP, 3.72 ERA) and Cy Young candidate, Sonny Gray (157 IP, 2.92 ERA), in games one and two.

Then, after battling two of the AL’s top pitchers on Monday and Tuesday, Cleveland will face the Twins’ most likely 3rd playoff starter, Joe Ryan, in the series finale (Wednesday). Joe has a 2.84 ERA and .562 OPS Allowed in 104.2 healthy innings this season. That includes his first two starts, since coming off the IL a couple of weeks ago (11 IP, 1.64 ERA, 14 SO).

If you’re the Cleveland Guardians fanbase on Monday morning, you may not realize it, but your favorite baseball team has a STEEP hill to climb if they want any chance of catching the Minnesota Twins and stealing the AL Central crown. The odds are heavily stacked against them.

But still, baseball games are played on the field, not on probability projections, and the Twins have to go into Progressive Field this week and knock the 2022 champs out of the race, before finishing their schedule strong. That starts with a victory tonight. Do not give them any feeling of hope during this series.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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