The Minnesota Twins may still occupy the AL Central basement, but they are bidding for their longest winning streak in more than a year.
Last-place Minnesota (34-45) is trying to win five in a row for the first time since an eight-game run June 11-21, 2011. The current winning streak continued with Monday's 6-4 victory over the Tigers (39-41) to open this four-game set.
The Twins also won four straight May 16-19, a streak that began with a two-game sweep at Detroit. Minnesota is also seeking to win four in a row at Comerica Park for the first time since May 25-July 12, 2008.
"We've got some momentum now and we want to keep that going," left fielder Josh Willingham said.
Mauer and Plouffe, who combined for three hits and three RBIs on Monday, are two of the biggest reasons why the Twins are on a roll.
Mauer, Minnesota's lone representative at next week's All-Star game in Kansas City, is batting .400 during a 10-game hitting streak.
Plouffe, meanwhile, is 6 for 16 with two doubles, three homers and six RBIs in his last four games.
Nick Blackburn (4-5, 7.74 ERA) will take the ball for Minnesota seeking again to beat the Tigers on the road for the first time.
The right-hander is 0-5 with an 8.64 ERA in nine career games - eight starts - at Detroit, and he was roughed up in his most recent visit May 16 while being bothered by a left thigh problem. He surrendered six runs and six hits and was lifted after two innings before the Twins went on to win 11-7.
Blackburn was hit hard again Wednesday, giving up six runs and nine hits - including back-to-back homers in a four-run fifth - before exiting after that inning in a 12-5 loss to Chicago. Each of his previous six starts had ended in wins for Minnesota, despite the fact his ERA in that span was 8.04.
"I can't begin to explain how frustrated I am right now," Blackburn told the Twins' official website Wednesday. "It's like I'm not getting very many breaks. Guys go through streaks like that, but it's not fun. I guarantee you that. I'm not enjoying myself right now."
He hasn't enjoyed himself against Miguel Cabrera, who is hitting .452 off him with three homers in 31 at-bats.
Cabrera, who will join teammates Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander at the All-Star game, has a .517 average with nine RBIs in his last eight games, but Detroit has failed to capitalize and has split those contests.
"We haven't really synchronized all year, but the players have done a good job of staying pretty stable," manager Jim Leyland said.
Leyland, though, suddenly must deal with a lack of stability in his rotation. Max Scherzer had been scheduled to make Tuesday's start, but has been scratched due to a hamstring problem and will be replaced by Duane Below (2-1, 2.70).
Below has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen this season, taking his lone loss at Minnesota on May 16, when he gave up two runs in 2 1-3 innings. The left-hander went 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA in two starts last season.
Mauer is 2 for 4 with a double off Below, while Plouffe is 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.
- Trevor Plouffe
- Joe Mauer
- The Minnesota Twins