With a chance to sweep their first series at Target Field, the Yankees hope Vazquez can end his struggles in road games against the Twins on Thursday night.
New York (28-18) earned two victories over Minnesota (26-20) on Wednesday, winning 1-0 to complete a contest that was halted by rain the night before, then getting a homer from Nick Swisher(notes) in the top of the ninth to take the series’ middle game 3-2.
The Yankees also got a clutch homer in the first game, with Derek Jeter(notes) going deep while adding a highlight-reel play at shortstop that saved at least one run. But pitching continues to lead the way for them in Minnesota.
New York has posted a 1.83 ERA in winning six straight road games against the Twins, including one contest en route to sweeping last year’s divisional series matchup.
“We’re losing games to this team, but they’re not by a lot,” Twins center fielder Denard Span(notes) said. “We’ve just got to find a way when we’re playing this team to take advantage of the opportunities we do get.”
Matching up with Yankees pitching has only extended Minnesota’s woes at the plate. The Twins have lost three straight and six of eight, scoring three runs or fewer in each of the defeats.
New York had lost 10 of 15 prior to this series and has a chance to win three in a row for the first time since a six-game run from May 2-8, but Vazquez’s struggles in road games against Minnesota could end its momentum.
Vazquez (3-4, 6.69 ERA) is 1-5 with a 6.21 ERA in seven starts at Minnesota. In two outings there with the Yankees, he’s 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.
The veteran right-hander, though, appears to be settling down following a terrible start, going 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA over his last two outings. He is coming off his best performance of the season, allowing one hit and striking out six in six shutout innings of a 2-1 win over the Mets on Friday night.
Vazquez left after he was hit on his right index finger fouling off a sacrifice attempt in the seventh, but he felt fine when he threw in a side session Tuesday.
“I’ve been able to relax and let my pitches work,” Blackburn told the Twins’ official website. “I still have times in each game when I try to do too much, but I think at this point I realize what it feels like when I’m trying too hard. I know the adjustments I have to make.”
The right-hander surrendered three runs in 7 1-3 innings of a 15-3 victory over Milwaukee on Friday night. Blackburn faced the Yankees in his previous start, giving up three runs in seven innings as the Twins won 6-3 on May 16. He is 1-1 with a 5.33 ERA in five starts versus New York.
Mauer is 3 for 15 (.200) in his last four games versus the Yankees and Twins first baseman Justin Morneau(notes), who leads the AL with a .369 batting average, is 5 for 28 (.179) over his last eight games against them.