After finishing with a winning interleague record in each of the previous four years, the Minnesota Twins enter Sunday hoping to salvage a .500 mark against NL foes in 2010.
The New York Mets, who have already secured a far better interleague fate, will be looking to win their sixth straight home series overall as they decide the teams’ three-game set.
The Twins (41-33) went a major league-best 53-19 in interleague play from 2006-09, but have encountered problems this year, causing their AL Central lead to shrink.
Another victory would make Minnesota 9-9 against the NL, but taking two of three in Queens has been difficult for visitors lately.
The Mets (42-32) have won nine of their last 10 home series, boasting a 13-3 record in their last 16 home games to help them challenge Atlanta for the NL East lead.
The left-hander won his first three starts following a stint on the disabled list, posting a 1.57 ERA in that stretch, but that run came to an end Tuesday against Detroit, when Niese gave up six runs in 4 2-3 innings, failing to get credit for the Mets’ 14-6 victory.
Niese didn’t allow a hit through three innings of that outing, but he wasn’t the same following a lengthy delay due to rain and the Mets’ eight-run third inning.
“That was a great lesson for him,” manager Jerry Manuel told the Mets’ official website. “Obviously, we wanted to give him every opportunity to get through that and get the win, but at the same time we have to make decisions based on what we think is the right thing to do.”
Niese would seem to have an advantage facing a Twins lineup heavy on left-handed sluggers, but the difference in batting average has been negligible for Minnesota, which hits .270 against lefties and .272 against righties.
Pavano steadied a staff that had posted a 6.30 ERA in the first seven games of its road trip.
“Carl picked us up big-time,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We got on Santana early and that’s not an easy thing to do.”
Scott Baker(notes) (6-6, 4.61) hopes to match Pavano’s performance, but the right-hander is 1-4 with a 5.93 ERA in seven road outings. He gave up five runs and nine hits in six innings of a 7-5 loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday, breaking a string of eight straight quality starts in interleague play.
In his lone outing against the Mets, Baker won at Shea Stadium on June 20, 2007, allowing two runs in five innings of a 6-2 victory.