Twins need strong showing on road trip
Minnesota (80-66) at Baltimore (65-80), Friday, 6:05 p.m. CT
MINNEAPOLIS -- The last road trip of a season is always a highly anticipated event for a ballclub."Since mid-February you've been playing baseball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You're always watching the schedule, down to that last road trip." But a 10-game road trip while your team is in the midst of a tight pennant chase is not exactly what Minnesota would choose for that final trip. That's especially true considering the way that the Twins have played away from the Metrodome this year. The Twins' record on the road is just 31-40, which includes their recent 14-game road trip where they went 5-9 with many late-game losses. "To play all those games on the road the last month of the season is not easy," Mike Redmond said. "But I think we can survive that. We've got a shot to get to the playoffs, and some of these young guys have never been before. ... It's right in front of us. The energy, how could you not be fired up when you've got a chance to go to the playoffs?" Many of the Twins' road losses this season have featured the club playing less than stellar baseball -- from poor offensive execution to bullpen woes and also costly defensive miscues. The hope is that when the club heads to Baltimore on Friday for a three-game series to kick off the trip, the team can instead play the type of baseball it has been playing at home this season. "We've had opportunities in a lot of those games [on the road] to come up with some big hits," Gardenhire said. "It's about executing. It's the same thing at home: if we execute and get things done, you win ballgames. That's what has to happen on this road trip -- good fundamental baseball." The club's final 10 games on the road will lead into the three-game showdown between the Twins and White Sox at the Metrodome on Sept. 23-25. The two teams have been in a tight race for the majority of the second half, with no more than 3 1/2 games separating them since the All-Star break. The Twins know that they can't look too far ahead to that series and risk increasing their current deficit on the road.
Only one team that the Twins will face during this three-city tour currently holds a winning record -- the Tampa Bay Rays. But teams like the Orioles and the Indians have plenty to play for as well, Redmond said."They are energized to beat you, because they know what is at stake for us," Redmond said. "And that's why, as a team, we have to go out and just play our game and have fun -- throw it all out there. When we play like that, nobody can beat us." Pitching matchup
MIN: RHP Scott Baker (8-4, 3.66 ERA)
Baker continues to give the Twins opportunities to win, although they've been unable to take advantage of most of them. The right-hander allowed just three runs over 7 1/3 innings in his last start against Detroit, but walked away with a no-decision after the Minnesota bullpen blew a lead in the eighth inning. It was the sixth no-decision for Baker in his past eight starts, and the Twins are 4-4 over that span. Baker will make his second start against Baltimore on Friday. He earned a no-decision on June 5, when he gave up just two runs over five innings. BAL: RHP Daniel Cabrera (8-9, 5.26 ERA)
Since his July 29 start against the Yankees, when he tossed seven innings of three-run ball, Cabrera has consistently gotten worse with each turn in the rotation. Cabrera hasn't been able to make it past the fourth inning in either of his past two starts and has given up 24 earned runs in the six starts since that July 29 outing. Cabrera has struggled with both his control -- and perhaps even more frighteningly -- his velocity, which has been drastically down in recent weeks. Cabrera insists that he his healthy, after the Orioles skipped his start two weeks ago, because of what the pitcher termed tendinitis and the need for him to serve a six-game suspension. Cabrera is 0-1 this season against Minnesota in one start, when he tossed six innings and allowed six earned runs. Tidbits
With his 30th steal on Wednesday night, Carlos Gomez became just the 10th player in the Majors this season to record 30 steals and have 30 extra-base hits. Others on the list include the Indians' Grady Sizemore, the Blue Jays' Alex Rios, the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez and the Mets' Jose Reyes. ... Minnesota currently leads the Majors with 66 sacrifice flies this season, also a new club record. ... The Twins' bullpen took the loss in Thursday's 3-2, 10-inning defeat against the Royals. It was the eighth time that the bullpen has taken the loss in the Twins' past 11 losses. Tickets
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Saturday: Twins (Glen Perkins, 12-4, 4.11) at Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 10-11, 3.57), 6:05 p.m. CT
Sunday: Twins (Nick Blackburn, 10-8, 3.67) at Orioles (Garrett Olson, 9-7, 6.43), 12:35 p.m. CT
Monday: Twins (Kevin Slowey, 12-9, 3.63) at Indians (TBD), 6:05 p.m. CT
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.