Mariners-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

The Minnesota Twins have been generating offense consistently during their best stretch of the season. However, earning a season-high fourth straight victory will mean overcoming Felix Hernandez, who has given them plenty of problems in the past.

Minnesota aims for its second series sweep of the season when it hosts Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

The Twins (21-20) have batted .307 and scored 26 runs in a 6-1 stretch at home. While they managed just six hits Saturday - the first time in six games overall they had fewer than 10 - they were 2 for 4 with runners in scoring position.

Brian Dozier homered for the second straight game, with his three-run shot in the fifth inning providing the difference in a 4-3 victory over the Mariners (20-22).

It was Dozier's 11th home run of the season and third during an eight-game hitting streak in which he's batting .387 with 11 RBIs. He's also had at least one hit in all nine career matchups with Seattle, homering four times and driving in nine runs.

"He's our igniter," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If we can get the bottom of the order to get on base, and roll it over, he's going to come up with more and more RBI opportunities and that's kind of what we're looking for, and tonight he delivered."

Dozier isn't the only Twin swinging a hot bat. Eduardo Escobar and Kurt Suzuki are hitting .444 and .400, respectively, during seven-game hit streaks.

Hernandez (4-1, 3.03 ERA) will try to put an end to the Mariners' four-game skid. He's 6-5 with a 2.07 ERA in 15 career matchups with Minnesota - his lowest ERA against an AL foe - and has yielded one run over 26 innings in going 2-0 in the last three meetings.

The right-hander, though, has been relatively mediocre in his last four outings overall, posting a 4.50 ERA while throwing just 24 innings. He is coming off a win, though he allowed a season-high four earned runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 12-5 victory over Tampa Bay on Monday.

Hernandez was also ejected for the first time in his career, getting tossed by the home plate umpire when he had words for him while exiting the game.

His control did appear improved, as he issued no walks for just the second time this season after walking eight in his previous 17 1-3 innings.

Minnesota's best weapon against Hernandez may be Joe Mauer. Though he was 0 for 4 on Saturday, Mauer is 14 for 33 versus Hernandez, a .424 average that's the highest for active players with at least 30 at-bats against the Seattle ace.

Mauer, though, is 1 for his last 7 in the matchup.

The Twins' rotation has also been solid of late, posting quality starts in five of six. Ricky Nolasco (2-3, 5.51) will try to keep that run going after giving up three runs in six innings of an 8-6 win over Boston on Tuesday.

Nolasco has been markedly better at home this year, posting a 2.74 ERA in three games there compared to a 7.81 in five road contests.

He lost his only previous start against Seattle, yielding three runs over seven innings of a 5-1 defeat with the Marlins on June 24, 2011.

Seattle's Corey Hart, 1 for 16 in his last four games, is 5 for 15 off Nolasco.

Robinson Cano has batted .452 with 15 RBIs in his past 11 contests against the Twins.

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