The Minnesota Twins' offense and pitching both continue to prove unreliable during the team's rough stretch. Those troubles could continue Wednesday night as they face a hot pitcher while their own hurler tries to turn things around.
The Twins (37-50) suffered their ninth loss in 10 games with a 4-1 defeat Tuesday to the Rays (51-40), winners of 10 of 11.
It was the sixth time in 10 games Minnesota has been held to four runs or fewer, and the seventh time over that span the team's starter failed to record a quality start.
Joe Mauer, who came in hitting .133 over his last 12 games, accounted for two of five Minnesota hits. But Justin Morneau, whose 51 RBIs lead the Twins, was 0 for 4 to drop to 3 for 30 over his last nine contests.
"Offensively early, we were banging some balls pretty hard," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I thought we were hitting them on the screws at people."
Minnesota's woes appear ripe to continue against Hellickson (8-3, 4.67 ERA). Since matching a season worst by allowing eight runs over 5 2-3 innings June 13 to Kansas City, he's won four straight starts with a 1.38 ERA.
The right-hander's last three outings have all been at home, where he's given up two runs over 20 innings. Hellickson held the White Sox to one run in seven frames of an 8-3 victory Friday while tying a season high with nine strikeouts.
"I felt the same when things were going bad," said Hellickson, who has quality starts in five of his last six outings after recording only three in his previous 12 starts. "It's just a matter of keeping the ball down, getting ahead and making a big pitch when I need to."
Hellickson has the luxury of pitching for a Rays team that is a season-best 11 games over .500 and averaging 5.9 runs while batting .286 in nine games this month.
''The team's been playing really well the last couple of weeks and we're starting to build a little confidence in each other,'' said Matt Joyce, whose two-run single opened the scoring Tuesday.
Minnesota starter Kevin Correia (6-6, 4.19) has generally been a solid option in his inaugural season with the Twins but not so much in his last two starts. The righty has surrendered nine runs in 11 innings, and gave up a season-worst 10 hits over six frames in a 4-0 loss at Toronto on Friday.
Three of the four runs he allowed came in the fourth inning, which he started by issuing two walks. Correia had gone 19 straight starts - dating back to Sept. 17 with Pittsburgh - without walking three batters, but he's done so in back-to-back games.
He'll have to be wary of Luke Scott, who is slugging .778 over his last eight games. It'd also be wise to keep Desmond Jennings off base as he's scored 13 runs in his last 11 contests.
Hellickson is 3-1 with a 4.26 ERA in four starts against Minnesota. Morneau is 0 for 5 off him while Mauer is 3 for 3.
Correia didn't record a decision in his lone outing versus Tampa Bay, giving up two runs in 5 1-3 innings while with San Diego on June 23, 2010.
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