Not even a few days off could cool down the Minnesota Twins, whose remarkable five-week run has them on the doorstep of first place in the AL Central.
A trip to the Metrodome, meanwhile, has done plenty to freeze the Texas Rangers’ vaunted offense.
Coming off their biggest offensive outburst of the season, the Twins will look to win their eighth straight home game while finishing off a three-game sweep of the Rangers on Sunday.
Not much was expected of the Twins this year after they traded away ace Johan Santana in the offseason, and many observers may have written them off for good on June 12, when they had lost seven of eight to fall three games under .500.
Since then, however, they have won 23 of 30 overall—by far the best record in baseball over that span—and 15 of 17 at home. After a 14-2 drubbing of Texas Saturday, they pulled within a half game of the first-place Chicago White Sox, who lost 9-1 to Kansas City.
Justin Morneau (five RBIs on Saturday) and Joe Mauer (three RBIs) also homered. The duo ranks second and third, respectively, in the AL in batting average, behind only Texas’ Ian Kinsler, who is 0-for-8 in the series after coming in with a 25-game hitting streak.
Kinsler is hardly the only Ranger struggling in Minneapolis. Texas, which leads the majors with 540 runs, was shut out for the first time this season in a 6-0 loss Friday, and managed only five hits in Saturday’s defeat.
“It’s two games, guys. There’s no panic here,” Kinsler said.
“It’s a shock to some people that we have been able to hold them down, but not really a shocker to me because I’ve seen them pitch all year,” Delmon Young told his team’s official Web site. “People don’t expect them to only have two runs in 18 innings.”
Scott Baker (6-2, 3.47 ERA) has been as effective as any Twins starter recently, going 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA in his last five starts. He gave up a season-high five runs in 4 1-3 innings at Texas on April 26 in a 12-6 win, but is 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA at home this year.
He’ll face Vicente Padilla, who will be making his first start since July 4 after a stint on the disabled list due to neck stiffness.
Padilla (10-5, 4.70) won 10 of his first 13 decisions this season, compiling a 3.74 ERA in his first 16 starts, but he gave up 15 runs in 8 2-3 innings in his last two starts—both losses—before going on the DL.
The right-hander has pitched well against the Twins this season, tossing a seven-hit shutout against them in a 7-0 home win on April 27. He gave up three runs in five innings of an 8-7, 10-inning win at the Metrodome on May 22, raising his career ERA to 3.23 against Minnesota in five starts.
Baker, meanwhile, has a 14.09 ERA in two career starts against Texas.