The Minnesota Twins made the postseason in four of Ron Gardenhire’s first five years as manager. If they can’t fix a beleaguered pitching staff, they could miss the playoffs for a third straight year under him.
A three-game home series against the lowly Kansas City Royals that begins Tuesday night could be just what the Twins need to get back on track in the AL Central race.
Minnesota (54-57) is in third place in the division after dropping seven of nine and suffering an 8-7 loss at first-place Detroit on Sunday. The Twins rallied from three runs down to tie the game after seven innings, but the Tigers scored twice off reliever Matt Guerrier(notes) in the eighth and held on for the victory.
Minnesota lost a one-game playoff at Chicago for the division title last season, but the Twins won’t even make it that far if they don’t start pitching better.
Minnesota posted a 6.72 ERA in the last nine games - 7.11 by the starters.
“It’s pitching, pitching, pitching,” Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire will look to Nick Blackburn(notes) (8-6, 3.79 ERA) to deliver a second straight strong start. The right-hander posted a 7.89 ERA in his last four starts following his most recent victory July 10, although he is coming off a solid performance. He gave up two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 2-1 defeat to Cleveland on Thursday.
Blackburn allowed three runs over six innings against the Royals on June 29 but suffered a 4-2 defeat. He has gone 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four career games - three starts - versus Kansas City.
While Minnesota’s pitchers have struggled of late, the lineup has not. The Twins batted .305 over the last nine games, and piled up 26 runs and 44 hits despite losing two of three to the Tigers last weekend.
In his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Aug. 2, Davies will try to rebound from one of the worst outings of his career.
Although he retired the first seven batters Wednesday night against Seattle, the right-hander didn’t make it out of the fourth inning and gave up eight runs in an 11-6 defeat.
Davies, sent to Omaha on June 20 after allowing eight runs over 2 2-3 innings against St. Louis, is 3-4 with a 4.46 ERA in seven starts versus the Twins. He yielded one run over six innings of an 8-1 victory at the Metrodome on Sept. 26.
The teams have split six games this season by winning two of three at each other’s home park. Kansas City’s victories in Minnesota from May 2-3 started a season-high six-game win streak.
Since that run, the Royals have gone a major league-worst 25-57 and are 7-22 since July 7. They haven’t won a series against an AL opponent since May 6-7.
Kansas City scored 43 runs in its last seven contests, but gave up 51.