Just over a week ago, the Minnesota Twins wrapped up a 14-game stretch away from home. While their upcoming road trip won’t be nearly as lengthy, it could still play an important role in affecting the team’s postseason chances.
The Twins kick off a rain-delayed 10-game swing - their last one of the regular season - on Saturday when they face the last-place Baltimore Orioles in a doubleheader.
This three-game series was originally scheduled to begin Friday night, but rain forced the teams to play twice on Saturday.
Minnesota (80-66) went 5-9 from Aug. 21-Sept. 4 - the franchise’s longest road trip since it played stretches of 15 and 16 straight away games in 1969 - to accommodate the Republican National Convention, which was held in neighboring St. Paul at the start of the month.
Throughout the swing, the Twins bounced between first and second in the AL Central because Chicago experienced similar struggles in that same stretch.
Heading into this 10-game trip, they are one game back of the division-leading White Sox and six games behind Boston in the wild-card race.
“It might feel like a piece of cake compared to the last one,” said pitcher Scott Baker, whose team is 31-40 as a visitor. “I think this one will be a lot better. Regardless of how many games we play on the road, we’ve got to play better.”
But Minnesota capped a 3-3 homestand with a 3-2, 10-inning loss to Kansas City on Thursday, going 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Francisco Liriano was dominant through eight innings, and four relievers combined to allow three hits in two innings of work. However, they also surrendered the winning run, and it was the eighth time in 12 defeats that the bullpen was charged with the loss.
The relief staff was also unable to hold the lead in Baker’s start on Saturday. The right-hander, who is 1-1 with a 4.18 ERA in his last eight starts, exited with a lead after conceding three runs and four hits in 7 1-3 innings of a the Twins’ eventual 6-4 home defeat to Detroit.
Baker (8-4, 3.66 ERA) is 1-0 with a 4.30 ERA in three career games versus the Orioles (65-80), but didn’t receive a decision against them on June 5 as he gave up two runs and five hits in five innings of a 3-2 home loss on June 5.
Although the Orioles have lost 10 of 12, and haven’t won a series since taking two of three in Detroit on Aug. 15-17, manager Dave Trembley promised his team would give an honest effort against the Twins.
“I think there is an obligation when you are playing contending teams to bring your game up to that level and play with some energy - and spirit,” he said Friday afternoon. “I think that’s why these guys are who they are - they like to compete.”
Trembley’s club received a significant boost from Melvin Mora, who returned in Thursday’s 6-3 win over Cleveland after being sidelined since Aug. 29 with a strained left hamstring. The third baseman had a pair of RBIs, and has hit .422 (27-for-64) with six homers and 20 RBIs over his last 16 contests.
Mora aims to continue his recent hot hitting in support of struggling Daniel Cabrera (8-9, 5.26), who is 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA in his last four starts.
The right-hander had his shortest outing of the year on Saturday, when he walked six and allowed two runs and five hits in three innings of a 5-1 home loss to Oakland.
Though Cabrera is 5-3 with a 3.92 ERA in nine career starts versus the Twins, he’s lost his last two against them. He allowed six runs and eight hits in six innings of a 7-5 road defeat on June 4.
Glen Perkins (12-4, 4.11) looks to rebound from consecutive disappointing starts when he starts the nightcap for Minnesota. The left-hander allowed five runs - three earned - and nine hits over 5 2- 3 innings Sunday in a 7-5 loss to Detroit, failing to hold a lead for the second straight outing.
Perkins struggled in his only career start against the Orioles, yielding five runs and nine hits in four innings before leaving without a decision in Minnesota’s 7-5 win.
Starting the second game for Baltimore will be Garrett Olson (9-7, 6.43), who pitched effectively for the first time in over a month in a 14-3 victory over Cleveland on Monday. He allowed three runs and eight hits over six innings.
Olson had one of his best starts of the season in a 3-2 victory at Minnesota on June 5, giving up two runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings.