Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is just 1-for-7 with a walk in his career against Twins right-hander Phil Hughes. But the Rangers will want him at the top of their lineup on Tuesday when they face another pitcher on a roll.
Their own pitcher on a roll, Yu Darvish -- winner of three of his last four decisions -- was scratched late Tuesday afternoon because of a stiff neck. He underwent an MRI. Right-hander Baker will start in his place. Baker pitched on Friday against the Tigers, so he will be pitching on three days of rest. He has done that just once in his career. He has never faced the Twins.
Hughes, who won just four games with the Yankees last season before signing a three-year deal with the Twins, is 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in his last six starts after seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory over the Padres last Wednesday.
Hughes started the season 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in his first three starts as he gave up exactly four runs over five innings in each outing. But this streak has left him with a 3.15 ERA on the season, 16th lowest among 45 qualifying pitchers in the American League.
"It's not a drastic difference -- I'm just attacking the strike zone and being aggressive," Hughes said. "It's been working out the last few starts. Not much is different. Just attacking and making some pitches."
He has a 1.03 ERA in May, which is right now the second lowest by a Twins pitcher for the month in club history. The lowest was by Jim Hughes, who was 6-0 with a 0.87 ERA in May 1976.
The Twins' record for lowest ERA for any month is 0.45 by Johan Santana in 2004. Santana and Hughes are two of five Twins pitchers since 1961 who had an ERA below 1.00 for any month. Bill Krueger had a 0.84 ERA in April 1992, Bill Dailey had a 0.90 ERA in June 1963 and Francisco Liriano had a 0.93 ERA in April 2010.
Hughes has not walked a batter in 26 1/3 innings in May. Only one other Twins pitcher has ever gone an entire month without walking a batter in at least 25 innings. Kevin Slowey did so in September 2011, but also gave up 37 hits in 27 innings and was 0-5 with a 7.57 ERA.
"Of course I'm trying not to walk guys," Hughes said. "Sometimes, it's just going to happen. Lately I've been able to throw a lot of strikes and avoid that. But sometimes you're going to miss. It's physical. It's human. You're not going to make a perfect pitch every single time. I tell myself out there, 'If I'm going to miss, I'm going to miss on the plate.' Throw strikes, be aggressive, because I feel like my stuff is good enough to get away with mistakes over the plate."
Choo is on his own hot pace. After going 4-for-13 with six walks in a four-game series with the Tigers in Comerica Park, Choo entered the series with the Twins hitting .400 with a .529 on-base percentage in road games, both the highest in the American League.
"I was very happy with what we did in Detroit as a team," Choo said. "We were facing a good team with good pitching so it was very impressive. We have to continue that."
The highest batting average by a Rangers player on the road for one season in club history is .352 by Mike Hargrove in 1974. He holds the record with a .434 on-base percentage.
Choo could return to the outfield on Tuesday. He has been used at designated hitter the past two days while dealing with a sore left ankle. He sprained the ankle on April 21 against the Athletics and still has occasional flare-ups. He had one on Saturday and left the game in the sixth inning.
Choo understands he must deal with it for the entire season, or at least until the Rangers get a four-day break for the All-Star Game.
"Probably," Choo said. "It's not just going to take one or two days. It's going to take a little while. I twisted my ankle last year and in a couple days … no problems. This time is way worse than last year."
Rangers: Gimenez behind the plate
Chris Gimenez will be behind the plate on Tuesday for the Rangers. Gimenez caught Yu Darvish for the first time on Thursday in the Rangers' 9-2 victory over the Tigers and manager Ron Washington was happy about the way the two worked together. Darvish can be particular about his catchers, but Gimenez handled the mercurial ace well.
"The only thing I told him is Yu likes to be in charge of his game," Washington said. "Get with him and figure out what he likes to do and give him autonomy."
Darvish admitted he was concerned about throwing to Gimenez for the first time, especially with his breaking pitches.
"But once the game started, he was catching everything," Darvish said. "I felt comfortable."
Twins: Outfield gets reinforcements
The Twins also got Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham back Monday. Both were out with wrist injuries with Willingham getting activated from the disabled list while Arcia was called up from Triple-A Rochester. He was on the DL but activated on May 14 before being optioned to Rochester to get more swings. Both have been out since early April.
"It's exciting," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You get to see those two big guys in the middle drive a baseball. We struggled on our road trip and didn't swing the bat great. Hopefully these guys can inject a little bit into us. I know Arcia was driving the baseball, and we know Willingham can, too.
"We're playing guys all over the place. We're playing infielders in the outfield but we're hanging in there pretty good. I don't know how anybody could anticipate this many outfielders going down this early in the season."
• The Rangers have lost six straight night games.
• Washington said he wants to get backup infielder Luis Sardinas a couple of starts during the series, including one at shortstop.
• Joe Maurer is two walks away from tying Bob Allison for third all-time in Twins history. Mauer has 639. Harmon Killebrew had 1,321 and Kent Hrbek had 838.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.