05/31/10 9:10 PM ET
Twins, Mariners streaking in different directions
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
Minnesota enters riding a five-game winning streak after beating Seattle, 5-4, on Monday, while the Mariners have lost three straight and will look to avoid suffering their fifth losing streak of at least four games this season.
The Twins' recent winning streak has been paced offensively by Jason Kubel, who has been swinging a hot bat over the past five games after starting the season in an uncharacteristic funk.
Kubel is batting .353 with three home runs and eight RBIs during the Twins' winning streak, after batting just .217 through Minnesota's first 45 games of the season.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has noticed a difference in Kubel at the plate and chalks it up to having more confidence.
"He beats himself up more than anything else, and when he gets confident, you can really see it," Gardenhire said. "It goes with a few hits here and there. Once hits start coming, you don't feel like you have to get a hit every time up anymore. You feel good about your swing and stop worrying about every out you make."
Kubel will have a chance to keep it going against Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas, who has been a pleasant surprise this season, with a 3.12 ERA over his first nine starts of the year.
He last started on Wednesday against the Tigers and was effective by holding Detroit to just two runs, but also went just five innings in his shortest outing of the season after needing 109 pitches to record 15 outs.
"Just a lot of pitches," Vargas said of his last start. "I got too deep into some counts. I probably could have gotten some guys to put the ball in play earlier if I attacked in some counts where I didn't, but I kept the team in the ballgame."
The Twins will counter with right-hander Nick Blackburn, who was impressive in his last outing against the Yankees on Thursday when he allowed just two runs over seven innings. He also finished May with a 5-0 record and a 2.65 ERA, which was a strong comeback after a disappointing April, when he went 1-1 with a 6.85 ERA.
"It's quite a surprise," Blackburn said of his strong performance in May. "Just that I've been able to put together several good starts in a row and had my better stuff recently has been a bit of a confidence booster to me."
Twins: Hudson avoids serious injury
Second baseman Orlando Hudson underwent a CT scan on his surgically-repaired left wrist, but it showed no new fractures and he could return to the lineup in the next two to three days. Hudson is scheduled to rejoin the team on Tuesday in Seattle after staying back in Minnesota after injuring his wrist on the final play of Sunday's game when he collided with center fielder Denard Span.
Mariners: Alfonzo erupts
Catcher Eliezer Alfonzo put on a show in his first start with the Mariners on Sunday when he went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs. He was out of the starting lineup on Monday against the Twins, but should see playing time this series, as his performance on Sunday certainly impressed manager Don Wakamatsu. "He's an aggressive player," Wakamatsu said. "He absolutely killed that home run. He jumped on it and gave us a big spark. He threw out a runner and had a huge impact on that game."
Mariners pitchers took batting practice on Monday in preparation for Interleague Play, as Seattle will play six straight games without a designated hitter during two road Interleague series starting June 11. ... Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard, who has yet to throw a pitch this season after undergoing shoulder surgery in August, played long toss on Monday and is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session on Friday. ... Twins right-hander Clay Condrey (strained right elbow) has resumed a throwing program after getting a second opinion from Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek. Gardenhire said that Altchek's diagnosis was the same as the Twins' doctors and it left Condrey to decide between getting an injection and shutting himself down for a couple months, or trying to pitch through some of the inflammation.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.