The Minnesota Twins have had one of the best home records in the majors, and the Metrodome crowd may be making its biggest impact right now.
Continuing their homestand, the Twins look to build off a big series win as they open a three-game set against the Cleveland Indians on Friday.
Minnesota (60-48) took three of four games from the AL Central-leading Chicago this week, moving within one-half game of the White Sox after Thursday’s 10-6 win - a victory in which the fans may have played a part.
The Twins were trailing 4-3 when manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the seventh inning. As he left the field, the fans began throwing hats and baseballs onto the turf, causing White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to pull his team off the field.
The game resumed after about five minutes and the Twins rallied quickly for a four-run inning and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“It almost cost us the game. It was good that it stopped, but everyone was on their feet, yelling and cheering,” Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said. “It kind of sparked us.”
Thursday’s win improved Minnesota to 37-20 at home this season, including a major league-best 21-6 since June 1.
Now, a win coupled with a Chicago loss would move the Twins into the Central lead for the first time since May 13. The White Sox open a three-game series against the Royals in Kansas City on Friday.
Minnesota is 8-4 against the last-place Indians (47-60) this season, including a 5-1 mark at the Metrodome.
The Twins took two of three games at Cleveland last weekend, and Friday’s game reprises the pitching matchup from Sunday’s finale from that series - won 4-2 by the Twins.
Nick Blackburn (7-6, 3.69 ERA) limited the Indians to one run and four hits over seven innings in Sunday’s game, while Cleveland’s Jeremy Sowers (1-5, 5.86) allowed two runs and three hits over a season-high eight innings.
Blackburn has been excellent in all three of his starts versus the Indians this season, compiling a 2-0 record and 1.31 ERA by only allowing three runs in 20 2/3 innings. This will be the first home outing since July 2 for the right-hander, who is 5-2 with a 2.70 ERA in nine starts at the Metrodome.
Sowers, meanwhile, earned his only win of the season on the road - July 19 at Seattle. He yielded four runs over six innings but got credit for a 9-6 victory.
Cleveland split a four-game series with Detroit this week, winning Thursday’s finale 9-4 behind Grady Sizemore’s three-run homer and four RBIs. However, Cleveland committed three errors after making four more in Wednesday’s 13-inning, 14-12 loss.
“The last two games have been really bad,” manager Eric Wedge told the Indians’ official Web site. “I’m not happy at all with some of the missed opportunities and the way we played defensively. There’s no excuse for it.”