TWINS (50-26) AT ROYALS (26-51)
2:15 p.m. ET; FSKC, FSNO, MLB.TV
There are multiple ways to explain why some players hit well against certain teams. There’s denial, which is the explanation of choice for Royals manager Ned Yost. And then there’s the bewilderment of Twins manager Rocco Baldelli.
The point of the discussion is the Twins’ Miguel Sano, who has owned the Royals in his short major league career. Sano and the Twins face the Royals on Sunday afternoon in the conclusion of a four-game series in Kansas City.
Homer Bailey (6-6, 4.82) will get the assignment of trying to shut down Sano. He made his Royals debut April 3 in Minneapolis. He took a no-decision, allowing three runs on five hits in five innings. He had a season-high eight strikeouts. He’s 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA against the Twins, with his only other start coming in 2012 while with Cincinnati. He’s never faced Sano.
Michael Pineda (4-3, 4.76 ERA) will pitch for the Twins, who are trying to take the series three games to one. They lost the opener Thursday before taking the last two. Pineda is 5-5 with a 3.84 ERA in 10 starts against Kansas City. Sunday will be his first appearance against the Royals in 2019.
Sano has more home runs (12) and RBIs (43) against the Royals than he has against any other team. It doesn’t matter how he’s doing otherwise; when Sano faces Kansas City pitching, he rakes.
An example was Friday, when Sano hit a game-tying home run in the top of the eighth inning of Minnesota’s 8-7 victory after striking out the first three at-bats. Another example was Saturday, when he led off the second inning with a 454-foot blast to center field.
“I don’t know that he’s hit well against us,” Yost said prior to Saturday’s game. “He didn’t hit well against us last year. The first year you’re getting to know the guy. I don’t think he’s hitting well against us this year. He hit a home run yesterday.
“There’s no ‘mentality’ involved. It’s the talent of your pitching staff. If you’ve got good pitchers, (he’s) not going to hit well against them. I don’t know that he’s exceptionally killing us.”
Yost also noted that, besides the home run, Sano struck out four times on Friday, but Sano doesn’t just whiff against Kansas City. He’s struck out 632 times in 407 career games.
Baldelli, who had a seven-year playing career, said he doesn’t understand why it happens.
“I have no answer to that question,” Baldelli said, “but it’s definitely the case. You don’t know whether it’s a little random. You don’t whether it’s the pitchers that the guy matches up reasonably well against, or if it’s the ballpark. There are a lot of different factors that go into it.
“Every single hitter, whether you’re a major league hitter, or a guy who plays in the minors, in college, in high school or wherever, there are always teams and players that you feel better hitting against.
“Maybe it’s mental, maybe it’s physical. But when you play against a team that you’ve hit well against, you play more confidently.”
Whoever is right, Yost or Baldelli, there’s one thing that Baldelli is sure about.
“I’m definitely going to enjoy the fact that he puts good swings on the ball against their pitching staff.”
–Field Level Media