The Minnesota Twins can match their longest winning streak of the season on Sunday afternoon when they bid for a series sweep of the Texas Rangers in Arlington.
The Twins have won three in a row, a streak that began with a 7-2 victory at Seattle on Wednesday and continued with 7-5 (10 innings) and 3-2 wins over the Rangers on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, respectively. Minnesota won four consecutive games from May 23-26.
Right-hander Kenta Maeda (2-2, 5.01 ERA) will make his second start for the Twins after a three-week stint on the injured list with a right adductor strain and right arm soreness.
Maeda, the runner-up for the 2020 American League Cy Young Award, allowed one run on three hits over four innings against the Mariners on Monday. He walked three and struck out seven in the no-decision.
Maeda owns a 1-0 record with a 2.38 ERA in three career appearances (two starts) versus Texas.
Right-hander Dane Dunning (2-5, 4.57) will get the nod as he looks to bounce back from a 5-3 loss to Walker Buehler and the Los Angeles Dodgers last Sunday.
Maeda and Dunning have met before this season on May 3 at Target Field in Minneapolis. Maeda gave up two hits over 5 1/3 shutout innings while striking out eight to pick up the victory.
Dunning, who is 1-1 with a 2.13 ERA in two career starts against Minnesota, took the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) in 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out five.
The Twins, who were expected to contend for their third consecutive AL Central title, welcomed back Byron Buxton (right hip) to the lineup on Saturday. The addition came one day after right fielder Max Kepler (left hamstring) rejoined the team.
Buxton singled and scored on a two-run homer by Nelson Cruz on Saturday. Buxton also reached base on an error.
Kepler walked and scored what proved to be the winning run in the seventh inning against reliever John King. Kepler stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on another wild pitch to Luis Arraez.
Arraez, who returned earlier in the week from the injured list with a sore right shoulder, was the hero in Friday’s 7-5 win. He smashing an RBI triple off the fence in center to start the 10th inning and then later scoring what turned out to be winning run on a bases-loaded walk.
The Twins are still 12 games under .500 but the return of key players like Buxton, Maeda, Arraez and Kepler has manager Rocco Baldelli feeling much more optimistic.
“When you start getting the pieces of that nucleus back, and getting a few of them back at the same time, you start to see the effects in the clubhouse, on the field, during these games,” Baldelli said. “Just putting a couple of these guys back out there probably gives everyone a little bit of confidence when they take the field.”
Especially the explosive Buxton, who was hitting .370 with nine homers and 17 RBIs in the first 24 games of the season. He received AL Player of the Month honors in April.
“Everybody is starting to get that chemistry back together and things are starting to click a little bit, and we’re starting to talk a little more and figure things out,” Buxton said. “You know, the page is turning.”
Texas, meanwhile, has lost five in a row and 18 of its last 21 games.
“We need to play better baseball,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “We’ve got to get the job done. … We’re shooting ourselves in the foot a lot.”
–Field Level Media