The Minnesota Twins were nearly unstoppable at the Metrodome through the end of July. Once the calendar changed, so did their fortunes.
The Twins (67-49) look to avoid their first six-game home losing streak since 2000 when they meet the Toronto Blue Jays (63-54) in the finale of a four-game series on Sunday.
After a 15-5 win over Texas on July 31, Minnesota was a major league-best 39-14 at home. Since then, the Twins have been shut out three times in five games at home, and have been outscored 35-3 during the longest slide there since June 17-July 6, 2000.
Minnesota hasn’t been swept at home since losing three straight to the Chicago White Sox from June 29-July 1, 2004, and it has never been swept in a four-game home series by Toronto.
In a 4-0 loss Saturday, the Twins tied a team record by grounding into five double plays and had six overall. They’ve been outscored 16-1 in the series and are hitting just .189.
“Your bats go silent, you get frustrated,” said Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, who was hit in the left hand with a pitch but stayed in the game. “We just can’t get it done. I’ve seen better pitching, but we just haven’t gotten it done.”
Toronto’s starters have recorded an 0.50 ERA in the series, and Shaun Marcum (1-1, 4.81 ERA) looks to continue that with another strong effort for the Blue Jays.
The right-hander is coming off his longest start of the season since joining the rotation on July 18 after seven relief appearances. Marcum walked a season-high four, but limited Baltimore to two runs and three hits over 6 2-3 innings and didn’t receive a decision in an 8-4 loss.
“Marcum did a heck of a job,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He took us as far as we wanted him to go.”
Marcum is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in five starts this season and will face the Twins for the first time.
Reed Johnson has hit two-run homers in each of the last two games, and Lyle Overbay and Aaron Hill each went 3-for-4 with an RBI on Saturday. The Blue Jays have won six of seven after a season-high seven-game losing streak, but still trail the White Sox by seven games for the AL wild card.
Brad Radke (11-8, 4.65) will try to keep the Blue Jays’ bats in check for Minnesota. The right-hander made his season debut against the Blue Jays on April 5, limiting them to four runs and eight hits over six innings of a 13-4 rout.
Radke is 10-8 with a 5.16 ERA in 23 career starts versus the Blue Jays, but has struggled at home against them.
Since Aug. 10, 1999, Radke is 0-4 with an 11.86 ERA in five starts against Toronto at home. He’s also given up at least 10 hits in four of those outings, and has allowed Toronto batters to hit .434.
The Blue Jays’ Frank Catalanotto is hitting .458 (11-for-24) with four doubles and a home run against Radke during his career.
In six starts after the All-Star break, Radke is 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA. He gave up two runs and nine hits over seven innings in a 4-2 victory over Detroit on Tuesday.
“He made a lot of good pitches (Tuesday),” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He changed speeds very well, moved it in and out and never let them sit on one thing.”
Minnesota is just 2 1/2 games behind the White Sox for the wild card.