Thursday MLB Preview – Twins at Rangers

The Rangers look to finish off a sweep against a team that they could matchup against during postseason play.

Minnesota Twins at Texas Rangers

Minnesota still leads the AL Central division by 3 1/2 games despite being in a position of getting swept for the first time since dropping three straight at Milwaukee from June 22-24.  It’s the first time that the Twins have lost three straight games since July 7-10 when the club lost four in a row. The Twins had won 21 of 27 before arriving in Arlington, but the offense has managed to produce just six runs in this series.  “We were swinging good coming into this series, but they’ve pretty much shut us down,” said Jason Kubel.  The three losses to the Rangers in this series has now dropped the team a half-game behind them in the standings, which would be important in establishing home-field advantage in the playoffs.  The club is still 14-8 in August (+510) and come in with a 25-18 mark against left-handed starters (+540).  The Twins have also posted a .273 batting average against southpaws this season, which is the second highest average in the AL.

Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano is 11-7 with a 3.45 ERA in 24 starts this season and the team has won six of his last seven outings.  He is coming off a no decision effort, giving up five runs and six hits over five innings of work against the White Sox.  The left-hander is 5-4 with a 4.33 ERA in 12 road starts, surrendering two home runs over 68.2 frames.  He will be making his 17th nighttime start, producing a 7-4 record and 3.98 ERA, while giving up just three long balls.  In five career appearances (three starts) versus the Rangers, Liriano has posted an even 1-1 mark and 4.74 ERA, including a 1-1 record and 4.50 ERA at Rangers Ballpark.

Texas has maintained its 8 1/2-game lead over the Oakland Athletics due to its current four-game winning streak and is in the middle of facing five straight southpaws.  The Rangers are 20-18 on the season against left-handers, but going into today’s contest, they’ve lost five of six against them.  “I don’t feel like we have a weakness against anybody,” manager Ron Washington said.  “I know the numbers say we don’t do well against them, but we’ve gone out there and tattooed left-handers.”  The club is 11-5 as a home favorite of -150 to -175 this season (+280) and the total stands at 8-7 O/U in those contests.  It’s also important to note that the Rangers are 7-1 in their last eight games versus AL Central opponents.

Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee is 10-7 with a 3.09 ERA in 22 starts this season, but comes in on a two-game losing streak.  In those outings, he has allowed 14 runs and 19 hits over 13.1 innings of work.  The left-hander is 4-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 10 home starts, issuing just a single free pass and collecting 74 punch outs in 80 frames.  He has made five starts this month, tallying a disappointing 1-3 record and 5.80 ERA, after finishing the previous two months with a combined 6-2 mark.  In 18 nighttime outings this year, Lee has produced a 9-4 record and 2.79 ERA compared to a 1-3 mark and 4.55 ERA during the day.  The former fourth-round selection of the Montreal Expos has made 18 lifetime starts versus the Twins, going 8-3 with a 3.40 ERA, surrendering just eight home runs in 111.1 innings.

Bettors will find that the Twins are just 1-4 in their last five games as a road underdog and the under is 5-2-1 in Liriano’s last eight in that situation.  Texas is 36-15 in its last 51 games as a home favorite and the under is 4-0 in the club’s last four home games versus southpaws.

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