The Minnesota Twins’ four-game winning streak this week has largely been fueled by a three-game sweep of a struggling last-place team.
It’s safe to say this weekend’s basement-dwelling opponent will probably put up more of a fight.
The New York Yankees, still looking to climb out of the AL East cellar, visit the Metrodome on Friday for the opener of a four-game series against Minnesota and the teams’ first meeting this season.
The Twins (28-25) are returning home from a 5-1 road trip, with the final three wins coming against the bumbling Kansas City Royals - who have lost 11 straight.
Having won six of their last eight games, the Yankees (26-27) aren’t in such desperate straits, but they’re still a half-game behind Baltimore for last place in the division after losing two of three to the Orioles this week. They salvaged the finale with a 4-2 win on Wednesday.
Mike Mussina, who starts for New York on Friday, began his career with 20 wins in his first 22 decisions versus the Twins, but the veteran right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.58 ERA in his last six starts against them.
Mussina (7-4, 4.39 ERA) is looking to avoid a third straight poor performance. He had won five consecutive starts before he failed to get through the first inning against the Orioles on May 20, allowing seven runs - though only one was earned - in a 12-2 loss.
He earned a win Saturday against Seattle, but lasted just five innings, allowing four runs and seven hits—including two homers—in a 12-6 victory.
“I give this one to the offense today,” Mussina said. “This was their win.”
Jason Giambi has led the offensive resurgence for the Yankees, who have scored 55 runs in their last eight games. Giambi homered for the second straight game on Wednesday, and is 9-for-18 with three doubles, three home runs and six RBIs in his last five contests.
The veteran first baseman had been hitting as low as .150 this month, but he’s now batting .244 overall, with a .339 average, six homers and 14 RBIs in 20 May games.
“We said all along that he was having great at-bats,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told his team’s official Web site. “It just wasn’t working out for him. Now, it’s working out well for him and he is continuing to have great at-bats.”
But he’ll have to face a hot left-hander in Minnesota’s Glen Perkins (2-1, 2.77). The 25-year-old rookie has lasted at least six innings in each of his first four major league starts this season, and he’s earned his first two big league victories in his last two outings.
Perkins beat Detroit with 7 2-3 innings of one-run ball on Sunday, scattering seven hits and two walks in the 6-1 Twins victory that started their current winning streak.
“He spotted the ball in well,” Detroit’s Brandon Inge said. “He was getting us conscious of looking on the inside part of the plate and then going away with the breaking stuff. There’s not much you can do when he’s spotting like that.”
Minnesota pitchers have benefited from ample run support in recent games, as the Twins have scored 62 runs in the last 10 games, winning seven.
However, Minnesota is 12-34 against the Yankees since the beginning of the 2002 season, including two AL division series defeats.