Cubs-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

While the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago Cubs have two of the worst records in the majors, only one is playing like it.

The streaking Twins look to complete a three-game sweep of the lowly Cubs on Sunday.

Minnesota has the worst record in the AL, but has put together a nice run over the last week and a half, winning nine of 11.

The Twins (24-34) will try to match their longest winning streak of the season with a fourth straight victory Sunday. They have scored 19 runs in winning the first two games of this series against the major league-worst Cubs (19-40).

Following a walk-off victory Friday, Minnesota cruised to an 11-3 win Saturday behind a six-run fourth inning. Scott Diamond pitched six scoreless innings, Trevor Plouffe homered and drove in four runs and Joe Mauer, back in the lineup after missing four games with a sprained right thumb, had three hits and two RBIs.

"We still have a long ways to go here," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We're 10 games below .500 and we've been playing some pretty good baseball. That tells you how far we dug ourselves a hole."

Mauer and Plouffe have helped spark the recent run. Mauer was hitting .382 in the 15 games prior to the injury, while Plouffe, who was hitting .135 on May 18, is batting .314 with six homers and 11 RBIs since. He's 4 for 7 in this series with two homers and two doubles.

The pair will try to keep things going Sunday as the Twins seek a sixth consecutive win at home following a 6-17 start at Target Field.

Their mound opponent will be Ryan Dempster (1-3, 2.59 ERA), who ended an 18-start winless streak Tuesday at Milwaukee. The right-hander gave up three hits in seven innings of a 10-0 win, retiring the first 15 batters he faced en route to his first victory since Aug. 11.

The Cubs scored eight runs while he was on the mound, equaling the total of his previous five starts combined.

"It felt nice," Dempster said. "It's been a while."

Dempster's only start against the Twins came in 2002 - a forgettable outing for him after he allowed 10 runs, hit two batters and walked four in four innings. The right-hander also made a relief appearance against them in 2006.

The Cubs are 1-8 on this 10-game road trip, have dropped 15 of 16 away from home and are 4-20 overall since May 15.

"It's getting a little boring now," manager Dale Sveum said. "Losing is, you can only take so much of it. The consistency of it now is getting a little out of hand, that's for sure."

Alfonso Soriano has continued to swing a hot bat despite Chicago's dismal play. He hit his 12th home run Saturday after going deep twice on Friday. All of his homers have come in 24 games since May 15 and he has 22 RBIs in that span.

Soriano will try to continue his power surge against Francisco Liriano (1-6, 6.46), who has given up one run in 12 innings since rejoining the rotation. The left-hander started the season 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA before being demoted to the bullpen.

''My confidence has been there,'' he said. ''It's all about location.''

Liriano, who has never faced the Cubs, is 9-4 with a 3.19 ERA in interleague play.

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