Facing the Yankees for the first time since getting swept in last season’s AL division series, the AL Central-leading Twins will try to snap an eight-game slide in the Bronx on Friday.
Off to their best start since opening 29-12 in 2001, the Twins (22-12) are looking at this weekend’s three-game set with New York (22-12) as a barometer for where the team stands through the season’s first six weeks.
“You know (the Yankees) are going to be there come October,” center fielder Denard Span(notes) told the Twins’ official website. “These games in the regular season do mean something. It’s just setting the tone for October. We plan on being there, and I know they plan on being there.”
The Twins, though, are looking for better results in this matchup than in 2009, when they dropped all 10, including three in the postseason. In its first visit to new Yankee Stadium, Minnesota was swept in a four-game set May 15-18. Three of those losses, though, came on walk-off hits.
“We didn’t win, but we didn’t struggle against them,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team is 3-23 at New York since the beginning of 2002. “There was seven or eight out of 10 that could have gone our way, but didn’t go our way where we were one hit or one out away. But that’s all water under the bridge - it doesn’t mean anything this year.”
The Twins haven’t won at New York since a 6-2 victory July 4, 2007, and have lost seven straight overall in the regular season to the Yankees.
Francisco Liriano(notes) (4-1, 2.28 ERA) has moved past last season’s career-worst 5-13 record and has been the Twins’ most dominant starter. He is, however, looking to bounce back from a 7-3 loss to Baltimore on Saturday when he surrendered season highs of five runs and 10 hits.
Liriano is 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA in two career starts against New York.
“I don’t want to take anything away from these guys, but I think I would have had a bad start no matter who I faced,” he said after pitching a season-low 4 1-3 innings.
Burnett is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two home starts, and the Yankees look for another solid start from him after losing three of four at Detroit. New York had four hits in Thursday’s 6-0 loss to the Tigers and batted just .199 in the final five games of its 3-4 trip.
Twins first baseman Justin Morneau(notes), who is batting a team-high .357 with eight homers and 23 RBIs, faces New York for the first time since July 9. Morneau missed the AL division series due to a stress fracture in his lower back.
Minnesota has won four of its first five road series this season, while New York is a major league-best 10-2 at home.