Coming off the best start of his career, the right-hander tries to help the Twins avoid a three-game sweep by the surging Cleveland Indians when the AL Central rivals meet on Wednesday for the final time in the regular season.
Minnesota (69-70) has dropped seven of its last nine games overall with five of those losses coming against Cleveland (80-58). The Indians have a season-high seven-game lead over second-place Detroit and 11 1/2 over third-place Minnesota.
Baker (8-6, 4.09 ERA) was on the mound for one of Minnesota’s recent rare wins in his last start.
He took a perfect game into the ninth inning Friday against Kansas City, but walked leadoff hitter John Buck. One out later, he gave up a single to Mike Sweeney to lose the no-hitter, but the Twins won 5-0.
Baker’s one-hitter was his first shutout in 44 career starts and his second complete game this season.
“He’s been on a mission this year,” Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said Friday. “He’s more determined, he works second to none. Hard, hard worker. He’s confident now. Just another great step in his development.”
Baker, now will try to win his career-high third straight start, and is 4-1 with a 1.84 ERA in his last six outings at the Metrodome. He also is 2-3 with a 4.19 ERA in six career starts versus the Indians, including a 1-0 victory on Aug. 5 when he pitched eight scoreless innings and scattered four hits.
Fausto Carmona (14-8, 3.31 ERA) opposed Baker in that contest, allowing just one run and five hits over seven innings, and will do so again on Wednesday.
Carmona is 2-2 with a 1.93 ERA in eight career games, including four starts, versus the Twins. The right-hander, though, is coming off a shaky outing on Friday when he gave up his most runs since June 27.
Carmona yielded five runs and seven hits over six innings, but didn’t factor in the 8-5 win over the Chicago White Sox. He walked a season-high six and struck out four.
The Indians, who have won 10 of their last 11 games, improved to 13-4 versus Minnesota this season with a 7-5, 11-inning win on Tuesday.
Travis Hafner hit two home runs and the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the 11th inning. His first homer gave him 126 as a designated hitter, passing Andre Thornton for most in Indians history.
“We’ve got a good group of guys here and we fight until the last out,” said Hafner, who has just 21 homers this season - the last five coming against Minnesota. “We’ve had some good come-from-behind wins this year. It seems we’re playing pretty well right now.”
Hafner is 7-for-14 with three homers and a double lifetime versus Baker.
Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer had been sidelined since Aug. 25 with a strained left hamstring and wasn’t expected to return until this weekend, but made a brief appearance Tuesday after Mike Redmond left with an injured finger.
The Twins are concluding a seven-game homestand where they are trying to avoid matching a season-high four-game skid, last set May 9-12.