Orioles-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

Matt Wieters is in a good position to continue his hot streak when he steps to the plate against the worst pitching staff in the AL.

Wieters tries for another big performance as the Baltimore Orioles attempt to capitalize on the struggling Minnesota Twins in the opener of this three-game series at Target Field on Friday night.

Wieters leads Baltimore (14-12) with a .342 average, while his five homers and 17 RBIs are second to Nelson Cruz's seven and 25. The All-Star catcher has been particularly effective over his last six games, going 11 for 28 (.393) with two homers and seven RBIs.

He continued swinging a hot bat Thursday, when his second hit of the game came on a homer leading off the 10th inning that gave the Orioles a 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh.

Wieters was rested in a 5-1 win in the opener of the doubleheader - the result of rainouts in the first two games of the series. Baltimore totaled 21 hits with three doubles and as many homers in the twin bill.

The Orioles have batted .299 with 14 homers and 61 runs while winning eight of their past 11 in Minnesota (12-14).

The Twins' staff may have a tough time improving upon that considering its 5.09 ERA is only better than Arizona's 5.20. The starters have been the major culprit with a league-worst 6.04 ERA.

Minnesota also allowed the Los Angeles Dodgers to hit .311 while being swept in a three-game set, falling 9-4 before serving up three homers in a 4-3, 12-inning defeat in Thursday's doubleheader.

In the first two games of this upcoming series, the Twins are scheduled to start two pitchers who have the highest qualifying ERAs in baseball. Ricky Nolasco (2-2, 6.67 ERA) gets the ball Friday before Minnesota sends out Kevin Correia (7.33) on Saturday.

Nolasco has surrendered at least five runs in four of his five outings. However, the only time the right-hander didn't was his only home appearance April 12, when he yielded one run and five hits in a 7-1 win over the Royals.

Nolasco, though, was battered again April 24, surrendering a season-high six runs in six innings while the offense bailed him out with a 9-7 win at Tampa Bay.

He's won his last two starts against the Orioles with a 2.57 ERA, but the most recent came with Miami on June 23, 2010.

Baltimore may have its own concerns on the mound with Ubaldo Jimenez (0-4, 6.59), who is right above Nolasco and Correia with the third-highest ERA in the majors and now gets a sixth chance at his first win.

The right-hander struggled early last Friday, yielding two runs in the first inning before allowing two more and leaving with no outs in the seventh of a 5-0 loss to Kansas City.

"I'm trying to do everything possible to be there for the team. I know things have to change," Jimenez told the team's official website. "Hopefully (I'll) get it going in May. It seems like every time I go out there, I find a way to lose the game."

That hasn't been the case at Minnesota, where Jimenez has won three of four starts behind a 2.63 ERA while striking out 27 in 27 1-3 innings. He tied his career high by fanning 13 while yielding one run in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-1 win while with Cleveland on Sept. 29 in his final start of 2013.

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