The Minnesota Twins couldn’t be in worse shape as they begin their voyage into the uncharted territory of the NL West.
Having just been swept four straight by AL West-leading Seattle, the Twins travel to the West Coast to meet the San Francisco Giants in the opener of the inaugural series between the teams.
Minnesota has never played any of the teams it will face during what’s sure to be a grueling 12 games of interleague play. The Twins haven’t even played San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado or Arizona in spring training because those teams do not prepare for the season in Florida.
“You have to try and do the little things and not make many mistakes,” Mays said. “If there are guys on bases, you’re more likely to pitch around him. If nobody’s on, you have to accept the challenge and go after him. May the best man win.”
The Twins came into their four-game set against the visiting Mariners having already won four of six at Seattle and Oakland the week before. However, it was a different story at the Metrodome as Minnesota was outscored 30-13 in the sweep, including a 9-5 loss on Sunday.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski says now is not the time to lament a lost weekend because if the Twins don’t rebound quickly, their longest losing streak since April 18-21 could quickly grow out of control.
“We get to see guys like Bonds and (Benito) Santiago,” Pierzynski said. “We get to see Ray Durham again. There are guys who are good players.”
After dropping 11 of 16 following a blistering start, the Giants came home and got things back on track against Arizona and Colorado, winning five of six. However, they missed out on a perfect homestand with Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Rockies.
The Giants know they can cruise into the All-Star break next month with a comfortable lead in the West if they can do some damage during interleague play. After playing struggling Minnesota, the Giants welcome woeful Detroit into Pac Bell Park before traveling to mediocre Chicago and Kansas City, who are a combined 52-58.
Still, Giants manager Felipe Alou doesn’t want his team looking past the Twins.
“The Twins were one of the best teams I saw last year,” Alou said. “It’s a very tough team. Minnesota has always played well and the players definitely coming for a program that keeps the club together. They look the same, pitch the same, move runners over. It’s a winning way.”
STANDINGS: Twins - 1st place, AL Central. Giants - 1st place, NL West.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Mays (6-3, 5.48 ERA). The hard-throwing right-hander has won his last three starts, but has been mediocre in his last two—a pair of 6-5 wins over Oakland. Mays allowed four earned runs and eight hits over six innings in Wednesday’s win, six days after allowing four earned over just five innings in a win at Network Associates Coliseum on May 22. Mays, who has lasted at least five innings in 10 of 11 starts this season, has never faced the Giants.
GIANTS PROBABLE STARTER: Damian Moss (6-3, 3.44 ERA). Moss snapped a three start losing streak by allowing just two earned runs over 6 1-3 innings in Wednesday’s 10-2 win over Arizona. The 26-year-old left-hander faced the Twins last season while with Atlanta. He tossed seven scoreless innings and allowed two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in earning the win.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Twins - Jacque Jones, .327 avg., 33 runs and 6 SBs; Torii Hunter and Bobby Kielty, 8 HRs; Hunter, 33 RBIs. Giants - Santiago, .313 avg. and 35 RBIs; Bonds, 37 runs and 13 HRs; Marquis Grissom, Ray Durham and Jose Cruz Jr., 5 SBs.
2002 INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Twins - 10-8. Giants - 8-10.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Twins - LF Jones has 19 leadoff home runs in his career and three this season, including one Sunday against Seattle. … CF Lew Ford hit his first major league home run in the ninth inning on Sunday. … OF Dustan Mohr’s career-high hitting streak ended Sunday at 12 games. Giants - The Giants are 51-41 in interleague play. … 2B Durham, who signed with San Francisco in the offseason, has fared well against RHP Mays during his days with the White Sox and Oakland, hitting .306 (11-for-36) with a home run. … LHP Jason Christiansen, who has been sidelined for almost a year since having ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow, has been medical cleared to rejoin the team.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Twins - 16-10 on the road. Giants - 17-11 at home.