Minnesota (55-40) at Cleveland (42-53)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Cleveland, OH
Temp: 82° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Sat Jul 22, 2006
  • TV: FSNO, STO
Preview | Box Score | Recap

For a while, it seemed that no matter how many games the Minnesota Twins won, they couldn’t make up any ground in the AL Central. However after putting together several lengthy winning streaks over the last month, they are becoming a factor in the wild card race.

The Twins look for their ninth consecutive victory Saturday when they continue their weekend series with the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.

Minnesota (55-40) used an eight-run fourth inning to key a 14-7 victory in the series opener Friday. It was the most runs scored by the Twins since a 16-10 win May 20 over the Milwauke Brewers.

Joe Mauer was 3-for-5 with a double, triple and two runs scored, while Rondell White went 4-for-5 with four RBIs as the Twins matched their second-longest winning streak of the season.

“We’re playing with a lot of confidence,” said White, who has hit .522 (12-for-23) with 10 RBIs in his last six games. “I’m just trying to help out.”

The Twins—who also won eight straight from June 11-20 and 11 in a row from June 22-July 3—have won 28 of their last 34 games. While Minnesota still trails Detroit by 9 1/2 games in the AL Central, it is only three games behind the wild-card leading Chicago White Sox and one-half game behind the New York Yankees.

Mauer is 11-for-23 (.478) with five RBIs during a six-game hitting streak.

The Indians lost for the 10th time in 13 games, and the frustration was too much for starter C.C. Sabathia, who was ejected in the fourth inning by plate umpire Chris Guccione after being removed from the game.

“I’ve been ejected from games, but never after I’ve been taken out,” Sabathia said. “I was telling him he was terrible.”

Minnesota will hand the ball to Scott Baker (3-5, 5.89 ERA), who had a solid return to the majors Monday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The 24-year-old right-hander, who was 2-5 with a 6.06 ERA in nine starts before going to Triple-A, allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings of a 6-3 victory.

“It’s like a checkpoint for me,” said Baker, who threw 64 of his 92 pitches for strikes. “It gets me right back to where I need to be, quickly, instead of throwing quite a few pitches.”

Baker is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Indians. He faced them April 8 and gave up three runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings of the 3-0 loss. The right-hander has struggled against Travis Hafner, who is batting .625 (5-for-8) with two home runs and a double against him.

The Indians counter with rookie Jeremy Sowers (1-3, 7.15), who is making his fifth start. The right-hander has lost his last two starts, including one Sunday to the Twins. The 23-year-old Sowers was reached for five runs and 11 hits, including three homers, in seven innings of a 5-2 loss.

“He definitely gave us a chance to win the ballgame,” manager Eric Wedge said. “For a young guy, he’s able to control damage. Every time he goes out there, he leaves something.”

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Starting Pitchers

S. Baker LAD vs. J. Sowers Cle
5-8 Record 7-4
6.37 ERA 3.57
62 K 35
16 BB 20
1.56 WHIP 1.19