Making his first start against the Tigers since last season’s Game 163, Baker looks to bounce back from his worst outing of the season Wednesday when the AL Central-leading Twins try to clinch their seventh straight series win.
In the divisional foes’ first matchup since Minnesota’s 6-5, 12-inning victory in last season’s one-game playoff, Francisco Liriano(notes) allowed four hits in eight innings and extended his scoreless innings streak to 23 as the Twins (14-6) defeated the host Tigers 2-0 in Tuesday’s series opener.
Baker (2-2, 4.81 ERA) wasn’t nearly as dominant in his last outing. Trying to win his third straight start, the right-hander allowed season highs of six runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings of Thursday’s 8-1 home loss to Cleveland. It was the most hits Baker had given up since Boston had 10 against him exactly a year earlier.
Baker yielded three runs in six innings of last season’s AL Central tiebreaker, keeping the Twins in the game as they went on to win their fifth division title in eight seasons.
While Minnesota seeks to extend a franchise record by winning its seventh consecutive series to begin the season, the Tigers (11-10) will try to avoid losing their second straight series at Comerica Park.
Better defense would help Detroit, which committed three errors in the series opener to increase its season total to an AL-high 21. A dropped fly ball by Ryan Raburn(notes) and a wide throw by second baseman Scott Sizemore(notes) led to Minnesota’s runs.
“Is it tough? Yeah,” Tigers ace Justin Verlander(notes) said after striking out seven in his best outing of the season. “I’m sure those guys will be the first to tell you that, but this is a team game.”
The right-hander did not receive a decision in his last outing, but he struck out a season-high seven while giving up four runs in seven innings of Friday’s 5-4 loss at Texas.
“He had a little stiffness in his upper back, but it isn’t anything serious or related to last year,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Morneau, who didn’t play after Sept. 12 last season due to a back injury.
Before leaving, Morneau struck out all three times he came to the plate, snapping his streak of 19 straight games reaching base.
Mauer, though, is still batting .381 in the first four games of the Twins’ nine-game trip.
Miguel Cabrera(notes), whose leadoff double in the fifth was the first hit off Liriano, is batting .364 during an eight-game hitting streak versus Minnesota. Cabrera is 7 for 21 with two homers lifetime against Baker.
Detroit has alternated wins with losses in its last six games.