Don't look now, but Twins are hot

Once it gets warm, the Twins usually warm up, and that's playing true to form again. Will it last?

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It's warm outside. There's a National League team in town. It must be time for the Twins to get hot.

The Twins are playing their best baseball of the season, finally following the script that manager Ron Gardenhire hoped they would follow a few more times this year. On Saturday, they pounded an unimpressive Cubs team 11-3 for their ninth victory in their past 11 games and have a chance to sweep them in this three-game series Sunday.

The Twins were in a similar situation a year ago. In the middle of a 99-loss season, the Twins tore off 15 victories in 17 games in June over the Royals, Indians, Rangers, White Sox, Padres and Giants. That got them within seven games of .500. They inched to six under before falling apart the rest of the season.

This year's Twins team must prove that it won't head down the same path. But that will play out over the next several weeks. Right now, the Twins are seeing that they can hit a little bit, the defense is better than last year and the starting rotation is showing some signs of reliability.

"There is a bunch of confidence in here," Gardenhire said. " We have said it starts with our starting pitcher. If our starting pitcher is getting us deep into the game it gives us a chance.

"You can tell they are relaxed. We feel like we are going to score some runs. We feel like we are going to win games. It's just how and who's going to come up with a big hit."

Several players came through on Saturday as Trevor Plouffe was 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBI and Joe Mauer had two hits in the fourth inning as the Twins batted around and scored six runs to break the game open.

Twins lefthander Scott Diamond, who pitched six shutout innings Saturday, saw a large group of reporters at his stall after the game as he walked over and joked, "Why do you guys want to talk to me? We scored 11 runs today."

The Twins have the makings of a good offense with speed at the top and bottom and a core of professional hitters in the middle of the order -- Mauer, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit -- that should be productive. They just have to stay on the field, which has happened more often lately.

"Everyone has confidence here," Plouffe said. "It's not about one person. It's not about if you hit .300. It's about getting victories. That's kind of our attitude in here, and that's an attitude that's contagious."

As promising as the offense has been, it can't outhit bad pitching. Twins starters have a 3.79 ERA over their past 11 games, and they still entered Saturday with the worst starter's ERA in the American League.

That's why they looked like they didn't have a chance over the first several weeks of the season. The additions of Diamond, who won Saturday, and righthander P.J. Walters from Class AAA Rochester have been a boost. Walters, however, has struggled in his past two starts.

Nick Blackburn returned from the disabled list with an encouraging outing Wednesday. Francisco Liriano, who will start Sunday, is coming off two encouraging starts.

This, apparently, is the time of year when the Twins put it all together. They have 13 more interleague games this month, and they are 152-117 all-time against the National League. How far can they ride the interleague wave this season?

Although they can feel good about their recent play, Gardenhire looks at the standings and doesn't get too excited.

"We're 10 games under .500, and we have been playing pretty good baseball,'' Gardenhire said, "and tells you how far we dug ourselves a hole."

La Velle E. Neal III • lneal@startribune.com

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    Up next: 1:10 p.m. today vs. Cubs • Target Field • TV: FSN (1500-AM)

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Texas 4 Bottom 4th Inning
Oakland 2
Boston - B. Workman 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - G. Cole
Toronto - R. Dickey 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - S. Greene
Washington - G. Gonzalez 6:10 PM
Miami - B. Hand
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Milwaukee - K. Lohse 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Arizona - V. Nuno 7:40 PM
Colorado - Y. Flande
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick 8:10 PM
San Diego - R. Erlin
Seattle - F. Hernandez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - W. LeBlanc
Tampa Bay 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
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