The Minnesota Twins have surged into contention in the AL Central, but a late collapse in their most recent game didn’t leave them with a good feeling as they embarked on a seven-game road trip.
The Twins (67-66) relied on improved pitching to win 11 of 14 going into Wednesday’s series finale with Chicago, which Minnesota led 2-0 with two outs and the bases empty in the ninth inning.
First-place Detroit won its third straight Thursday - all against the Indians - and opened a five-game lead over Minnesota.
“Just because you lost a game like this doesn’t mean you’re not playing good baseball,” manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins’ official Web site. “We’re playing good baseball. … You just have to move on. When you play every night like we do, you can’t let things carry with you. Our guys have been pretty good about not bringing stuff with them.”
Pavano (11-10, 5.11 ERA) pitched for Cleveland the first four months of this season. The Indians gave him a chance after four difficult, injury-filled years with the New York Yankees, but sent him to the Twins on Aug. 7 once they were clearly out of contention.
The right-hander, whose only start against Cleveland came while with Florida in 2004, is 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA in three road starts since joining the Twins. He finished off the club’s most recent road trip with seven strong innings in a 10-3 win over Kansas City on Aug. 23.
Minnesota went 5-2 on that trip, and is 3-3 at Progressive Field this year.
“We need to continue to play consistent and good baseball on the road like we have lately,” Nathan said. “I think that’s really one of the keys that got us back in this thing.”
Pavano was also effective in his most recent outing, allowing two runs in six innings of a 3-0 loss to Texas on Saturday.
He will try to deal the Indians (58-75) a fifth consecutive loss. The sweep by the Tigers closed Cleveland’s 10-game trip, with the Indians falling 4-3 in 10 innings Thursday.
Jeremy Sowers(notes) (5-9, 4.88) will be on the mound to open this series. His last start was shortened to 4 2-3 innings by a rain delay after he allowed two runs in Cleveland’s 5-3 win over Baltimore on Saturday.
Sowers is 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA in two career home starts against the Twins, one of them a four-hit shutout July 22, 2006. Justin Morneau(notes), Jason Kubel(notes) and Denard Span(notes) have batted a combined .065 against the left-hander.
Minnesota will certainly be looking for more contributions from Morneau. The 2006 AL MVP is in a 12-for-74 (.162) slump, with one home run and 12 strikeouts over that span.