The Minnesota Twins are still out to prove they’re every bit as good as they were last year—and maybe even better.
The AL Central-leading Twins look to continue their impressive resurgence as they open a four-game series with the AL West-leading Seattle Mariners at the Metrodome.
“Everybody was saying we were not as good as last year, and we took it to heart,” first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said, referring to the criticism the Twins absorbed when they got off to an 11-14 start.
“We said to each other, `We’re better than last year, so let’s prove it.”’
Minnesota has bounced back by winning 20 of 26 since April 29, taking eight of its last nine series, including two of three at Seattle last weekend.
“When the Yankees were kicking our butts (in April), I saw a lot of sad faces,” Twins centerfielder Torii Hunter said. “It’s different now, we’re confident, and we’re just trying to ride this thing out a while.”
The Twins are coming off a two-game sweep of Oakland, capped by a 6-5 win on Wednesday. Minnesota has won four straight to move a season-high 11 games above .500.
Despite the two losses to Minnesota, Seattle has won nine of 12 overall, including a 5-2 victory over Kansas City on Wednesday.
Bret Boone has led the Mariners during their surge with six homers and 16 RBIs in his last 11 games.
STANDINGS: Mariners - 1st place, AL West. Twins - 1st place, AL Central.
MARINERS PROBABLE STARTER: Gil Meche (6-2, 2.86 ERA). Meche beat the Royals 5-1 on Thursday, allowing one run over 6 2-3 innings. The right-hander surrendered six hits and walked two, striking out seven. Meche is 3-1 with a 3.47 caree ERA against Minnesota.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Brad Radke (5-4, 5.43 ERA). Radke allowed five runs over five innings in Friday’s 5-2 loss to Seattle. The veteran right-hander surrendered nine hits, walked two and did not record a strikeout. Radke is 5-9 with a 5.38 ERA in 17 career starts against the Mariners.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Mariners - Carlos Guillen, .316 avg.; Boone, 13 HRs and 42 runs; Edgar Martinez, 42 RBIs; Ichiro Suzuki and Randy Winn, 9 SBs. Twins - Jacque Jones, .333 avg., 31 runs and 6 SBs.; Bobby Kielty, 8 HRs; Hunter, 32 RBIs.
SEASON SERIES: Twins, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Mariners - The Mariners are 20-6 against the AL Central this season. They were 23-18 against Central opponents last year. … OF Winn was 5-for-5 while batting second on Tuesday. He went 0-for-3 batting seventh Wednesday. … 1B John Olerud needs 15 hits for 2,000 in his career. Twins - The Twins optioned 1B Todd Sears to Triple-A Rochester of the International League on Wednesday and recalled OF Lew Ford. … Minnesota is 100-4 over the last two seasons when leading after seven innings. … The only series the Twins have not won during their current streak was against Kansas City from May 12-15, a split of a four-game set.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mariners - 16-7 on the road; Twins - 15-10 at home.