Phillies-Twins 5 things: If they can't hit Minnesota's pitching …


Phillies (30-41) at Twins (21-48)
8:10 p.m. on CSN

Well, the Phillies can't hit a lick at Citizens Bank Park, so maybe a nine-game road trip is just what they need.

The Phils dropped Monday's series finale to the Diamondbacks to end their homestand 0-6. Arizona outscored the Phils 22-5 in a four-game sweep, out-homering them 10-1 and finishing with 19 extra-base hits to their six. 

It should have been a more productive series for the Phils, whose record was 1½ games better than the D-backs when Arizona arrived in South Philly last Friday.

Can the Phillies get on track in Minnesota? Let's take a look at the matchup:

1. Two of the worst
The Twins have the worst record in baseball at 21-48, two games worse than the Braves, who have won five in a row. Minnesota is just 13-24 at spacious Target Field. 

The Twins have scored the fewest runs in the American League (268) and the Phillies have scored the fewest runs in the National League (221). Minnesota has given up 60 more runs than the Phils.

This season has been a disaster for the Twins since Day 1. They began the year 0-9, finished April 7-17, went 8-19 in May and are 6-12 in June. 

The Twins' starting pitching has been hideous. The rotation has a 5.61 ERA, and the lowest mark belongs to Ervin Santana at 4.83. Twins starters rank last in the majors in ERA, opponents' batting average (.296) and opponents' OPS (.832).

The offense hasn't done much at home — Minnesota is hitting .252/.315/.407 at Target Field compared to .294/.336/.477 from its opponents.

2. Nola on the mound
Aaron Nola struggled in his last two starts, allowing 12 runs (10 earned) in just 6⅔ combined innings against the Nationals and Blue Jays. But that was the Nationals and Blue Jays ... these are the Twins.

In those two starts, Nola went from 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA to 5-6 with a 3.51 ERA. But this does look like the right opponent at the right time for him for several reasons: No Twins player has ever faced Nola, Target Field leans more toward pitchers, and Minnesota's offense just lacks punch. It should also help Nola that Minnesota's most powerful bat, Miguel Sano, is on the DL with a hamstring injury.

Nola has made 27 big-league starts in his two seasons and is 11-8 with a 3.55 ERA. He has never allowed four-plus runs in three straight outings.

3. Scouting Duffey
The Phillies on Tuesday night face 25-year-old Tyler Duffey (2-6, 5.56). There's nothing special about this Twins right-hander, whose fastball averages 91 mph. 

Duffey throws a four-seamer, sinker, curveball and changeup. He's actually thrown the curveball more than any other pitch, utilizing it 39 percent of the time, 41 percent vs. right-handed hitters. His opponents haven't had much trouble with the curve, though, hitting .287 with seven doubles, two triples and two home runs.

Duffey is a tall righty (6-3) with a three-quarters arm slot, which creates more horizontal break on his curveball than you typically see. Between him and Nola, expect a lot of hooks tonight.

Lefties and righties alike have hit Duffey this season. Overall, his opponents have hit .304 with an .835 OPS. He has a 6.67 ERA at home.

4. Starts for Howard?
Ryan Howard has been the Phillies' designated hitter in all fives games they've played in American League parks this season. He's gone 3 for 21 (.143) in that role with a solo home run, no walks and six strikeouts ... so the numbers essentially match his season production.

Howard likely will start these games as manager Pete Mackanin tries to keep him somewhat fresh. 

It also bears mentioning that Tommy Joseph, even if some of the outs have been well-struck, is 1 for 31 in his last eight games and down to .230 with a .248 on-base percentage.

The middle of the Phils' order has been a black hole lately, with none of Howard, Joseph or Maikel Franco hitting, much less hitting for power. Franco, who sat Monday, is 0 for 16 in his last five games.

5. More on Minnesota
• The Twins' best offensive player this season has been utilityman Eduardo Nunez, formerly of the Yankees. He's hit .321/.351/.485 with nine homers, 25 RBIs and 16 steals in 60 games.

• Joe Mauer is a shell of his former, MVP-candidate self, but he's still an effective hitter who works deep counts and can be a tough out. He's hit .276 this season with 40 walks and a .377 OBP.

• Minnesota's bullpen can be beaten. The Twins lost their closer, Glen Perkins, to a season-ending injury. His replacement, Kevin Jepsen, posted a 5.46 ERA with four blown saves in 11 attempts. The job recently has belonged to former Brewers righty Brandon Kintzler, who is 2 for 2 in saves but has allowed four runs in his last three appearances.

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