San Diego (30-41) at Minnesota (29-39)

Fair Currently: Minneapolis, MN
Temp: 69° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Sat Jun 18, 2011
  • TV: Ch4, FSNO
Preview | Box Score | Recap

With the return of three-time AL batting champ Joe Mauer(notes), the Minnesota Twins are a little closer to full strength.

They’re also creeping a little closer to contention in the AL Central, something that seemed practically unattainable two weeks ago.

Mauer and the red-hot Twins seek their 13th win in 15 games when they host the struggling San Diego Padres on Saturday night.

After missing 57 games with bilateral leg weakness, Mauer returned to Minnesota’s lineup Friday and drove in the game’s first run with an RBI single in the first inning. He later scored on Michael Cuddyer’s(notes) double and Danny Valencia(notes) added a three-run homer to cap a five-run opening frame. The Twins (29-39) held on to win 6-5.

“I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get back here,” said Mauer, who finished 1 for 4.

Minnesota has won five straight and 12 of 14 after winning only five of its previous 24 games. The Twins were 16 1/2 games out of first in the Central on June 1, but have already trimmed that deficit by more than half, to eight games.

“Everything’s kind of coming around where we’re getting things done when we need to,” said Brian Duensing(notes), Friday’s winning pitcher. “That’s what we needed all season, and hopefully we’ll keep it together. Everyone in the lineup is contributing, and everyone defensively is contributing also. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

Cuddyer has been one of the biggest catalysts, batting .545 with three homers and 10 RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak. He has helped to fill the void left by Justin Morneau(notes), who is on the disabled list with a strained left wrist.

The Twins will go for a season-best sixth straight victory behind Scott Baker(notes) (4-4, 3.55 ERA), who tossed a five-hitter in last Saturday’s 8-1 win over Texas. The right-hander, who lost his shutout bid in the eighth inning, struck out seven and threw 80 of his season-high 112 pitches for strikes.

In his only career outing against the Padres on June 26, 2008, Baker allowed three runs and six hits in six innings of a 4-3 win. He is 8-4 with a 4.55 ERA in 15 interleague starts.

San Diego (30-41) counters with Tim Stauffer(notes) (2-4, 3.28), who looks to build on another stellar outing and hopefully pick up a rare win.

After throwing a career-best eight innings in a 2-0 victory over Colorado on June 7, Stauffer tossed another seven scoreless innings against Washington on Sunday, limiting the Nationals to five hits while walking three and hitting two batters. However, the Padres wound up losing 2-0.

It was another frustrating result for the right-hander, who has yielded two runs or fewer in nine of his 14 starts. His offense has backed him with seven total runs of support in his last six outings.

The Padres had a relatively big offensive day in the series opener after combining for 11 runs in their previous six games. Ryan Ludwick(notes) hit a three-run homer for San Diego, loser of six of seven.

“It’s nice to see us fight back after falling behind early and not playing the way we want to,” said Chase Headley(notes), who had four hits for the second time in three games. “We gave ourselves a chance, that’s a positive.”

This will be Stauffer’s first start against the Twins since June 17, 2005, when he allowed three runs in five innings of a 5-4, 11-inning loss.

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Starting Pitchers

T. Stauffer NYM vs. S. Baker LAD
9-12 Record 8-6
3.73 ERA 3.14
128 K 123
53 BB 32
1.25 WHIP 1.17

Scoreboard

Saturday, Jun 18