Sunday's 6-2 loss to Detroit snapped the Twins longest winning streak of the season at six and, in a sense, tripled our potential one game deficit in the Central. Instead, the Boys now look up at Detroit holding a three game edge with both teams scheduled for just 13 games left to play. The Bread Basket engenders the season's final road trip of the season (10 games) beginning with tonight's first of three versus the Chi Sox, against whom the Twins are 9-6 this season. The Tigers have the day off before playing three at Cleveland, against whom they hold an 11-4 edge in '09.
In a an active T.C. sporting weekend -- with the Gophers hosting Cal on Saturday and the Purple visiting the Lions on Sunday -- the Twins' rewarded the faithful by taking two-of-three from the Tigers, reducing their Central stronghold by a game. Attendance was impressive at the Dome, with nearly 113,000 taking in the three games, including over 43,000 on Saturday, the club's largest home body count since Opening Day. This is noted only to indicate that the Bread Basket still breathes, and that the collective antennae of our baseball attentions remain raised to see if the club can unseat the Tigers divisional lead for the first time since early-May.
Should you remain among the believers, gentle reader, please read on for a Twins @ Chi Sox series capsule:
Tonight: Nick Blackburn (10-11, 4.34 ERA) vs. Daniel Hudson (0-0, 4.76)
Blackburn seems to have rebounded from a late-summer funk, with three Quality Starts in his last four outings. Of his 10 wins, three have come against the Chi Sox this season, coupled with a stellar 2.67 ERA. Dude also has a little extra incentive to win tonight's pressure game. To wit: see game #163 of last year.
As per Hudson, the young fella is making his fourth career appearance this eve, and his first MLB start. In 5.2 innings in relief, he's allowed 6 hits, 3 runs, and has yet to walk a batter.
Tomorrow night: Jeff Manship (0-1, 5.31) vs. John Danks (12-9, 3.59)
Manship makes his fourth career start, and second versus the White Sox. His previous effort against the South Siders marked his most impressive outings to date: going 5 innings and surrendering a lone run back on 9/1. Manship has yet to gather more than 15 outs in any of his three starts, signifying that pen usage will hopefully be limited the game prior.
As per Blackburn with the Chi Sox, Danks knows the Twins pretty well (see game #163). Yet, overall, he's just 4-4 lifetime with a bulky 4.98 ERA vs. the Bread Basket. Furthermore, he's proven readily polar against the Twin lineup, as evidenced by the fact that four active ballers (Jason Kubel at .316; Joe Mauer at .333; Brendan Harris at .357; Michael Cuddyer at .481 with 4 HR's) have crushed him, while 6 batsmen are hitting .200 or worse.
Wednesday night: Brian Duensing (4-1, 3.22) vs. Mark Buehrle (12-9, 3.84)
Duensing has been spectacular since grabbing his opportunity at a starter's role, accruing a 4-0 mark coupled with a razor-thin 1.70 ERA. He's faced the White Sox twice, taking No Decisions in both previous efforts, while giving up just 2 earned runs in 12 innings pitched.
Buehrle has more wins against the Twins in his solid 10-year career (23) than against any other opponent. While the Twins really don't hit him with much power, several guys knock Buehrle for average, including: Span at .500; Redmond at .432; Gomez at .400; Cabrera at .302; Harris at .300; Cuddyer at .296. It's also worthy of note that since his Perfect Game tossed on 7/23, Buehrle is just 1-6 with a 5.08 ERA -- although, to his credit, he has tossed five Quality Starts in those 11 outings.