June has arrived, and is the case on almost every Saturday we’ve got a stuffed MLB slate with plenty of day baseball. Want rivalries? We’ve got Red Sox-Yankees and Cubs-Cardinals. Other compelling matchups include Twins-Rays, Phillies-Dodgers, and Astros-Athletics. We’ve also got Giants-Orioles, but let us not speak of such things. Let’s jump in. 

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Baseball schedule/scores for Saturday, June 1

Twins get another strong start

Coming into Saturday’s contest against the Rays, the following were true internet facts regarding the Minnesota rotation: 

  • They ranked second in the AL in rotation ERA (and the numbers of the top-ranked Rays’ rotation are skewed somewhat by their use of the opener). 
  • They ranked second in the AL in rotation FIP, or fielding-independent pitching
  • They ranked second in the AL to the Astros in quality start percentage. 
  • They ranked third in the AL in average Game Score
  • The led the AL in innings per start.

Now here’s what Kyle Gibson did against Tampa Bay on Saturday (a Twins win that secured at least a split of the four-game set): 

Gibson with that effort improved the Twins’ standing in all those categories listed above, save for average innings per start. That’s notable because Gibson came into this start with an ERA of 4.08. That’s not bad, but it’s the highest mark of any current member of the Twins’ rotation (Michael Pineda and his 5.34 ERA are presently on the IL). With this effort, Gibson’s ERA now stands at 3.75. Now let’s devote some color television footage to him: 

Under former GM Terry Ryan, the Twins famously emphasized pitching to contact in the rotation. That’s not an approach that works very well in this era, in which strikeouts are common and hitters are adept at doing damage on contact.

Since taking over following the 2016 season, the front office tandem of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have worked to get Twins’ pitching caught up with the times. Here’s how the rotation has ranked in the 15-team AL in rotation K% (strikeouts as a percentage of batters faced) over the last five full seasons, plus 2019: 

  • 2014: 15th
  • 2015: 13th
  • 2016: 15th
  • 2017: 12th
  • 2018: 7th
  • 2019: 6th

You can see the methodical progress. That’s not the sole reason the rotation is thriving in 2019, but it’s part of it. 

The Twins have received a lot of attention for all the home runs they’ve hit this season. To be sure, that’s a huge part of their success. That said, this is a team that’s now an MLB-best 39-18 and with MLB-best run differential of plus-107. You don’t out-score your opponents by more than 100 runs by June 1 without doing lots of things well. One of those things is starting pitching, which Kyle Gibson reminded us of on Saturday. 

Quick hits