The Minnesota pitching staff has been getting the job done lately, but the Twins will need a boost from their lineup to get past Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona.
The Twins look to solve Carmona when they continue their four-game series with the Indians on Sunday at the Metrodome.
Minnesota (56-53) has won five of its last seven games while posting a 2.39 ERA. Three of those victories have come against Cleveland (62-48), including a 3-2 win on Saturday to even the series.
After a short outing by Matt Garza, the Twins’ bullpen threw five scoreless innings with closer Joe Nathan pitching a perfect ninth for his 25th save in 27 chances. He has earned a save in each of Minnesota’s last seven wins.
“They’ve been very, very good,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of his relievers.
Right fielder Michael Cuddyer, who came off the disabled list Friday, drove in two runs for the Twins, who are batting just .235 over their last seven games.
They’ll need a better effort versus Carmona (13-5, 3.27 ERA), who is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA against the Twins this season while holding them to a .179 batting average.
The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA in seven career games, including three starts, versus Minnesota.
Carmona pitched well enough to win his last start on Tuesday, holding Texas to two earned runs and five hits over seven innings, but didn’t get much support in a 3-1 loss which snapped his five-start winning streak. He walked one, struck out four and gave up his first homer since June 27.
“My job is to keep the team close,” Carmona told the Indians’ official Web site through an interpreter. “I feel I did that. I can’t control what happens after that.”
Despite the loss, the 23-year-old Carmona has posted an impressive 1.74 ERA over his last six outings.
He may struggle for support again Sunday as the Indians are hitting just .238 during a 2-5 stretch. They stranded 10 runners Saturday and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Cleveland holds a one-half game lead over Detroit in the AL Central while Minnesota is 5 1/2 games back.
The Twins will hand the ball to Scott Baker (5-4, 4.88), who is trying to turn in a second straight impressive start.
The right-hander limited Kansas City to just one run and two hits over eight innings in a 3-1 victory on Monday. He didn’t issue a walk and struck out seven.
“He’s been probably the biggest surprise this season,” outfielder Jason Tyner told the Twins’ official Web site.
Baker hasn’t been as successful versus the Indians, going 1-3 with a 5.47 ERA in five career starts. Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore is 7-for-13 with two doubles during his career versus Baker while Travis Hafner is 6-for-11 with three homers and a double against him.
The Twins have taken three of the last four meetings with the Indians after losing the first six this year.