The New York Yankees take on the Minnesota Twins in the finale of their three-game series on Thursday night from Target Field in Minnesota. Thursday's series pits two teams that were both thought of as contenders in their respective divisions but have struggled to match expectations. The Yankees have dominated this series of late, taking seven of the last nine games between the two times heading into this week's series, but have struggled of late. New York is 3-7 in their last ten games and continues to fall behind the Rays and Red Sox atop the division with the Yankees now 6.5 games behind the first-place Rays. For the Twins, last place isn't a position that they're accustomed to being in, but haven't been to put things together consistently yet this season. Which team will finish off the series in grand fashion and come away with a win heading into the weekend?
Yankees Eyeing Offensive ResurgenceOne of the Yankees' biggest issues this year has been their timely, or rather untimely, hitting in the biggest positions. Double plays at inopportune times continue to be a major issue and one that hasn't necessarily improved since the season started. Injuries haven't exactly helped wither, as just as the offense seems to be coming together, another starter finds himself on the IL. Aaron Hicks will be out for the year, while backup outfielder Ryan LaMarre is on the 10-Day IL. The biggest starter missing though is power-hitter Luke Voit, who remains on the 10-Day IL. The welcomed news of late though was Giancarlo Stanton's big bat being back in the lineup to give some depth and protection in the lineup after spending some time on the IL.
The Kraken: Unleashed 🦑 pic.twitter.com/1ZLV4stm3x— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 9, 2021
Partly because of the injuries and partly because of his own success, Aaron Judge is leading the team in all five major offensive categories so far. He leads in batting average (.289(, home runs (14), RBI (34), OBP (.394), and hits (54). Bringing Stanton back in the fold has helped protect Judge in the lineup and his nine home runs are second on the team. The Yankees do have 71 home runs on the season with 12 batter shitting multiple home runs, showing the depth of the power in the lineup. With Hicks out, the Yankees are desperate for some increased production from Clint Frazier (.191 batting average) and Brett Gardner (.194 batting average). Over the last week, Gleyber Torres has been a roll, hitting .391, with Gio Urshela right behind him at .346, and if those two can get things going at the top of the order and combine with the power behind them in Stanton and Judge, this team can very quickly find the offense that fans were expecting to see from them.
According to MLB.com, Michael King will get the ball for the Yankees in the series finale in what's been an impressive start to the season for him. Despite being winless at 0-3, his ERA is only at 3.62 and has helped eat up some valuable innings as starters deal with injuries. Thursday will make only his third start of the season after starting the year coming out of the bullpen. King is coming off allowing a season-high four runs to the Red Sox the last time out, which isn't exactly bad given the efficiency of Boston's offense. King has never faced the Twins and Thursday will be a great opportunity for him to grow on his own and try to build up some confidence as some more difficult opponents come up.
Twins Looking To Climb Out Of BasementMinnesota is at a point in the season where they need anything or everything to get going to help get them out of the basement in the AL Central. It's shocking to see them behind even the Tigers in the division and they'll need to start stringing together some consistent series, not just games if they want to find a way to climb into playoff contention. Injuries haven't been the kindest to the Twins so far, but Josh Donaldson is a welcome addition back to the lineup. Byron Buxton is probably the biggest missing piece for the Twins right now, as his combination of speed and power is such an important ingredient for a winning club. In addition, Nelson Cruz is questionable with a knee injury. Beyond those two stars, the Twins are also expected to be without Rob Refsnyder, Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, and Luis Arraez.
With Cruz questionable for the finale of the series, the Twins likely will be without their top hitter (.280), the leader in OBP (.355), and leader in hits (49). Beyond that, they'll also be without Buzton's .370 average in 24 games, and a combined 35 home runs between all the starters expected to be out. Miguel Sano has taken over the team lead in home runs (11) and RBI (28), but for a team that has been one of the most dynamic on offense the last few years, those numbers show their struggles. Over the last week, Jorge Polanco, Trevor Larnach, and Josh Donaldson are all hitting .333 to give some depth, while Nick Gordon is hitting a team-best .438 to pick up some of the slack. Even with so many players injured, the Twins have still hit nine home runs over the last seven days and the power seems to slowly be trickling back into the offense.
According to MLB.com, former Yankee, J.A. Happ, will get the ball against his former team on Thursday night. He has a winning record on the year, at 3-2, while his 5.61 ERA has ballooned over the last few weeks. In his last five starts, he has a 10.17 ERA and opponents are hitting over .350. Happ had three successful seasons with the Yankees before heading to the midwest but has yet to face his old team again. Happ is, unfortunately, coming off one the worst starts of the season for him, allowing five runs and nine hits in only five innings against the Royals, and also only has one win since the end of April. According to ESPN, New York hitters have 95 at-bats against Happ all-time, with only 22 hits, good for a .171 batting average. He's also struck out Yankee opponents 30 times while yielding only 14 walks and will look to be efficient again on Thursday.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Yankees haven't been sharp of late, but the Twins are still a last-place ball club and now adding in all the injuries surrounding their starters, and this series finale is a great matchup for the Yankees to find a win and get some momentum going into the weekend. The Twins have over half of their typical starting lineup out and are missing a combination of speed, power, and consistent hitting, that'll be tough to replace. King on the mound for the Yankees is far from a sure thing, but he's at least been able to keep the Yankees in games against far better opponents this year. New York also has a healthy roster and even though they might not be hitting well, there's still tons of potential there, especially given that they'll be facing a struggling Happ as a pitcher they know quite a bit about from his time in New York. Expect the New York offense to come alive and King to do enough to keep Minnesota's band of typical bench players at bay.
Full-Game Total Pick
Runs will be tough to come by, especially for the Twins in this one, regardless of who is on the mound for the Yankees. The Twins have far too much offensive production sitting on the bench injured to put together much of an offensive threat, but King himself has the ability to keep them quiet even if fully healthy. For the Yankees, there's always the potential for an offensive explosion but it doesn't seem likely given how they've been playing of late and Happ has struggled but will know how to navigate his former team a little better than most. Additionally, according to covers.com, for New York, the under is 7-1 in their last eight games against AL Central opponents, is 5-1 in their last six games against a team with a losing record overall, and is 5-1 in their last six road games against a team with a losing record. For Minnesota, the under is 2-0-2 in their last four finales of a three-game series.