Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox Preview and Pick – Blackburn vs. Vazquez

Minnesota Twins (31-29) +155, 8 at Chicago White Sox (33-26), 8:10 pm Eastern Friday
by Zman of Predictem.com

The AL Central gets a bit of early-season pennant fever when the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, the top two teams in the division, commence a four-game weekend series on the South Side Friday night.

Baseball bookies are listing Chicago and starting pitcher Javier Vazquez (5-4, 3.43) as 170 home favorites for Friday’s game, with a total of 8 1/2, while Minnesota and Nick Blackburn (4-3, 3.32) are getting +155 as road underdogs.

Minnesota just dropped two of three games to Baltimore in Minneapolis, while Chicago just swept three games from Kansas City. So going into this series, the first-place White Sox lead the second-place Twins by 2 games in the AL Central.

Minnesota is 12-13 on the road this year, 21-22 as underdogs, and 37-23 vs. the run line.

The Sox are 16-9 at US Cellular this season, 16-10 as favorites, and 37-22 vs. the run line.

The Twins have taken four of seven games from Chicago already this season, with the totals going 3-4, as the games have averaged 9.9 total runs. Last year, these two teams split 18 games, with the totals going 10-6-2, as the games averaged a healthy 11.1 runs per game.

Blackburn held the Yankees to one run in 4 1/3 innings last Saturday before leaving the game after trying to catch a line drive with his mouth. But he’s OK, and is slated to take his turn in the rotation Friday night. Over his last three starts, Blackburn has allowed just four ER and 27 baserunners (hits + walks) over 18 2/3 IP. Minnesota is 6-6 in Blackburn’s starts this year, the totals 5-7.

Blackburn has already started three games vs. the White Sox this season, giving up eight ER and 28 BR in 18 innings of work. The Twins won two of those games, with the totals going 1-2.

Vazquez, coming off a solid outing vs. Tampa Bay last Saturday, has pitched 20 innings over his last three starts, allowing seven ER and 23 BR. Chicago is 7-4 in Vazquez’ starts this year, the totals 8-3.

Vazquez started five games vs. Minnesota last year, and once this season. In those six games, he allowed 13 ER and 45 BR in 42 2/3 IP. The Sox went 5-1 in those games, the totals 4-1-1.

Offensively speaking, Minnesota ranks 7th in the majors in team batting so far this season at .269, 19th in team OBP at .325, 21st in team slugging at .387, and is averaging 4.7 runs per game.

Chicago ranks 26th in the majors in batting at .249, 17th in team OBP at .327, 14th in slugging at .408, and is averaging 4.5 RPG.

On the injury front, Minnesota placed SS Nick Punto on the DL again Thursday with a bad hammy. And White Sox 3B Joe Crede, who missed Thursday’s game with a sore wrist, is listed as day-to-day for Friday’s game.

The totals are 31-28 in Twins games this year, 24-35 in White Sox games, and 11-14 in games played at US Cellular Field, which are averaging 8.4 RPG.

Zman’s Pick: I’m layin’ the wood with the Sox tonight.