Chicago (28-43) at Minnesota (36-35)

Cloudy Currently: Minneapolis, MN
Temp: 7° F
  • Game info: 8:10 pm EDT Fri Jun 23, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Johan Santana looks to keep up his run of dominant pitching when he takes the mound for the surging Minnesota Twins in the opener of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday.

Santana (7-4, 2.87 ERA) has allowed one run in each of his last four starts, going 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA. In his last outing Sunday, he pitched seven innings for an 8-2 win over Pittsburgh.

The left-hander has not surrendered more than four earned runs in a game this season, and his 109 strikeouts lead the AL.

The 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner will be making his first career start against the Cubs, but has allowed one run and one hit in five innings over three relief appearances against Chicago. Santana hasn’t faced the Cubs since 2001.

The Twins will look to their ace to help them to their 10th win in 11 games.

Minnesota (36-35) defeated Houston 4-2 on Thursday, as 22-year-old left-hander Francisco Liriano defeated Roger Clemens in the Rocket’s 2006 debut.

Liriano, who is 7-1 with a 2.17 ERA and has helped spark the Twins’ resurgence, threw eight innings and allowed two runs. The victory moved the Twins above the .500 mark for only the second time this season. They were 6-5 on April 15.

The team has outscored opponents 52-25 with 13 homers in the last 10 games. Its starters have reached the sixth inning in nine of the 10 contests, posting a 2.38 ERA during that span.

Shortstop Jason Bartlett has also been a key part of the Twins’ recent success, going 12-for-29 (.414) with a hit in all eight games since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester on June 13.

“I didn’t bring the wins, I’ll tell you that,” Bartlett said. “More of it had to do with the pitching coming around and all of us getting timely hits. But maybe I did bring a little spark and extra energy.”

Bartlett took over at short after the Twins dealt Juan Castro to Cincinnati in exchange for minor-league outfielder Brandon Roberts on June 15.

While the new addition is fitting right in, the Twins will see a familiar face when Jacque Jones visits the Metrodome for the first time since leaving Minnesota to sign with the Cubs as a free agent in the offseason.

The right fielder spent seven years in Minnesota, hitting .279 with 132 homers and 476 RBIs and helping the Twins to the playoffs in three seasons. The Cubs (28-43) signed him to a $16 million, three-year deal to bolster the outfield and provide power at the plate.

Jones struggled early on with Chicago, but has rebounded to lead the team in hitting with a .296 average. His 13 homers tie him with Aramis Ramirez for the team lead.

Chicago has not visited Minnesota since 2000, so Jones may be even more valuable to the Cubs defensively, giving them an outfielder familiar with the tricky Metrodome. The Cubs last faced the Twins at Wrigley Field in 2001 and have taken the last five meetings.

“We’ve just got to go out there and see,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ve got to get guys out there early, take some fly balls, because that roof presents some problems. We’ll take some tips from Jacque on how to play there, how to position yourself, how to play that balloon out there, all kinds of things.”

The Cubs hope rookie Carlos Marmol (1-1, 2.81) can build on his first two career starts.

The 23-year-old right-hander has given up five runs with 11 strikeouts in 12 innings in those two games after making two relief appearances. He has received only five runs of support in his starts, including one in a 9-3 loss to Detroit on Saturday.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Mármol CIN vs. J. Santana TOR
5-7 Record 19-6
6.08 ERA 2.77
59 K 245
59 BB 47
1.69 WHIP 1.00