The Minnesota Twins haven’t played like playoff contenders lately. If that doesn’t change in a hurry, the last baseball game in the history of the Metrodome will surely be in the regular season.
The Twins begin a pivotal nine-game homestand Friday night with the first of three against the Oakland Athletics.
With just 22 games remaining in the regular season, the Twins (70-70) are 5 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Detroit and one-half game ahead of the White Sox. Minnesota could easily be out of the race already after losing five of eight, including four of seven against non-contenders Cleveland and Toronto.
The Tigers, however, left the door open for Minnesota and Chicago by getting swept in a three-game set by AL-worst Kansas City.
The Twins failed to pick up ground with a 3-2 loss Thursday to the Blue Jays, as their offensive struggles continued. Minnesota went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and is averaging 3.2 runs during the past 10 games.
Returning home may not be enough to cure what ails Minnesota’s offense. The Twins have won six of nine at the Metrodome, but are batting .264 while averaging 3.1 runs in those games.
“We can’t go home expecting to play well, just thinking we’re going to win because we’re going home,” Morneau told the team’s official Web site. “You get some dangerous teams in September, a bunch of guys you’ve never seen.”
After this series, the Twins have three games each against Cleveland and Detroit before playing 10 in a row on the road, the final four against the Tigers. Minnesota closes its season - and possibly its tenure at the Metrodome before moving to new Target Field - with three versus Kansas City.
Nick Blackburn(notes) (9-10, 4.16 ERA) takes the mound for Minnesota looking to win for only the second time in 11 starts. After beating the White Sox on Aug. 31 to end a personal five-game losing streak, the right-hander was effective again Sunday but it wasn’t enough to win consecutive starts. Blackburn limited Cleveland to three runs and seven his over 6 2-3 innings but was a 3-1 loser.
He is 1-2 with a 3.42 ERA in his last four starts after going 0-4 with a 10.17 ERA in his previous six.
Blackburn pitched well in his first start this season against the A’s but was tagged for seven runs and a career-worst 13 hits at Oakland on July 20 but didn’t receive a decision in a 14-13 loss.
The A’s (62-77) had three-game win streak snapped Wednesday with a 4-3 loss to the White Sox in 13 innings.
Clayton Mortensen(notes) (0-2, 9.00) seeks his first major league win in his fourth appearance and third start this season with Oakland. One of three prospects acquired in the July trade that sent Matt Holliday(notes) to St. Louis, the 24-year-old right-hander was better in his second start Friday after he was hit hard in his Athletics debut on Aug. 8.
Mortensen gave up four runs in the second but recovered to limit Seattle to two hits and a walk over five scoreless innings in a 6-3 loss.