Tampa Bay (91-71) at Minnesota (63-99)

Fair Currently: Minneapolis, MN
Temp: 52° F
  • Game info: Tue Apr 26, 2011 - Postponed
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Starting pitching has keyed Tampa Bay’s turnaround following a brutal start.

The Minnesota Twins already have been stymied by the Rays’ rotation.

Jeff Niemann(notes) looks for his first win of the season as Tampa Bay tries to move over .500 for the first time Wednesday night at Target Field.

The Rays (11-11) took three of four from Minnesota from April 14-17, limiting the Twins to 12 runs and a .234 batting average. All four Tampa Bay starters lasted seven innings, including Niemann (0-3, 7.08 ERA) in the third game as he allowed three runs and eight hits in a 4-3 victory.

The right-hander, 2-0 with a 3.25 ERA in five appearances against the Twins, followed that outing by yielding six runs and six hits over 4 2-3 innings of a 9-2 loss to Chicago on Thursday.

That defeat dropped Tampa Bay to 9-10 after the Rays became the second team since 1900 - joining the 1991 Seattle Mariners - to reach .500 in April after starting 0-6.

“Ever since we had that 0-6 start, our motto is, ‘We want to win series,’” said James Shields(notes), who pitched a four-hitter in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Toronto for his second consecutive complete game.

“That’s all we’re worried about right now, we don’t care about anything else. All we want to do is win series.”

The Rays have won their last four series, posting 10 victories in 13 games after opening 1-8.

Tampa Bay’s rotation has been instrumental to the turnaround. Its starters have worked seven or more innings in 11 of the past 12 games while posting a 2.65 ERA.

Like the Rays, the Twins (9-12) also are starting to come around, having won three straight and five of seven after opening 4-10.

Minnesota defeated Cleveland 4-3 on Sunday to take both games of the rain-shortened set for its first series win.

“We got that first one out of the way,” said Jason Kubel(notes), whose two-run double in the seventh inning put the Twins ahead. “Hopefully we can just keep rolling.”

Delmon Young(notes) is expected to return to Minnesota’s lineup after sitting out the last five games with sore ribs and the flu.

Young is off to a slow start, with no homers and six RBIs after hitting 21 home runs and driving in a team-high 112 runs last season. He was 3 for 13 at Tropicana Field last week.

Justin Morneau(notes) wasn’t any better there, going 2 for 12, but he’s had two hits and two RBIs in each of his two games since missing five with an illness.

Tampa Bay’s Johnny Damon(notes) drove in six runs in the Minnesota series, while Matt Joyce(notes) went 8 for 14 (.571) with three doubles and three RBIs.

The Rays didn’t have to face scheduled starter Francisco Liriano(notes) (1-3, 7.40) last week, and that likely worked to their advantage.

Liriano is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in five starts against Tampa Bay. In his lone outing versus the Rays last season, the left-hander gave up a run and four hits while striking out 10 in seven innings of Tampa Bay’s 8-6 comeback win July 3.

Liriano is coming off his best outing of the season, and he’ll be going on eight days’ rest after his start Friday was skipped because of a rainout and Tuesday’s series opener was also postponed.

Against Baltimore on April 18, Liriano allowed two runs, five hits and five walks in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-3 victory. He had a 9.42 ERA in losing his first three starts.

“We need him to get on a roll and start throwing the ball well,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “(This is) a really good builder for him.”

These teams will play a day-night doubleheader on Thursday.

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Starting Pitchers

W. Davis KC vs. F. Liriano Pit
11-10 Record 9-10
4.45 ERA 5.09
105 K 112
63 BB 75
1.38 WHIP 1.49


Tuesday, Apr 26