The Twins started the first half of the season getting pummeled by the Tigers, 22-1. They hope to close the first half a bit more competitively.
Minnesota rose from that awful start and turned its season around, and now leads Detroit by 2 1/2 games in the standings. The Twins occupy a playoff spot at the moment, in other words, and the Tigers don’t, even though they went on to win the next two series against the Twins, too, by a combined 34-22 score.
That’s why this four-game set at Target Field, the final games before next week’s All-Star break, feels important, even in the Twins’ clubhouse.
“Yeah, it kind of does,” admitted manager Paul Molitor, who generally tries to keep his team focused on the fact that there are still 77 games yet to play. “You try to keep perspective the best you can. But we’re playing a team that has taken it to us for the most part.”
Things have changed, obviously. The Tigers are without their best hitter, two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera, who suffered a calf strain last week, and their starting pitching has gotten worse as the season has gone on. Their starters’ ERA is 4.45, 13th in the AL, and far behind the Twins’ 3.79. (How’s that for a switch from the past few years, eh?)
Meanwhile, the Twins are coming off a sweep of the Orioles, are 5-3 in July, and have a new cleanup hitter in Miguel Sano and a new starting pitcher in Ervin Santana.
Tonight, though, the Twins send Mike Pelfrey to the mound, and it’s hard to know what to expect. He’s had nine quality starts this season, but only two in his last five starts. He lasted just four innings last Saturday in Kansas City, but Molitor is optimistic.
“Mike’s last couple of starts, he’s gotten a little amped up out there. I think he feels plenty strong. His velocity still, particularly the last start, was high-end for him,” the manager said. “He’s the kind of guy, at least I hope he is, who will step up here for us today and give us a good chance to get the first game. He’s had a really nice first half, [and] he’s motivated to try to go into that break feeling good about what he’s done.”
Of course, David Price will have something to do with it, too. The All-Star left-hander has faced the Twins twice this season, and allowed a total of three runs over 15 innings while collecting two wins.
“He’s a guy that really doesn’t pitch in patterns too much. You have to adjust as his stuff is working on a given day,” Molitor said. “You hope he makes mistakes and you’re ready for them if he does.”
With such a tough lefthander on the mound, Eddie Rosario gets a break tonight, with Shane Robinson taking his place. Here are the lineups for tonight’s 7:10 game:
V. Martinez DH
J.D. Martinez RF