The Minnesota Twins can't ask for much more from their starting pitchers this weekend, or from Phil Hughes the way he's pitched his last two times out.
Hughes seeks a third straight victory Sunday when the Twins try to capture this home series from the Baltimore Orioles.These teams have split the first two games, with pitching dominating. The Twins' Ricky Nolasco scattered nine hits and went the distance Friday, but Ubaldo Jimenez struck out 10 over 7 1/3 innings in Baltimore's 3-0 victory.Minnesota (13-15) evened the series with a 6-1 win Saturday behind Kevin Correia, who yielded one run in seven innings for his first victory.Correia had been winless in his previous nine starts, and Hughes (2-1, 5.14 ERA) can more than relate.Hughes had gone 0-8 with a 5.97 ERA over a 16-start span before winning his last two. He yielded two runs with six strikeouts and no walks over a season-high seven innings in last Saturday's 5-3 victory over Detroit.The right-hander allowed both runs in the first inning before retiring 16 straight in one stretch."After the first I was coming apart a little bit, and not really staying within myself, overthrowing a little bit and coming out of my mechanics," Hughes said. "But I was able to settle down pretty quick and get on a little bit of a roll, which was nice."Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez (1-2, 5.19) has never faced Minnesota. The right-hander gave up four runs over six innings Sunday in a 9-3 defeat to Kansas City.Baltimore (15-13) certainly would like to see a lengthy outing from Gonzalez. Both teams entered this three-game set with tired arms after doubleheaders Thursday."It affects you sometime for a week," manager Buck Showalter said. "It forces you to sometimes put people in places where they normally wouldn't be pitching in."The Twins broke out a bit Saturday, ending a four-game slide in which they batted .201 with no homers. Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier both homered while Mauer's RBI single with Dozier on second in the fifth inning broke a 1-for-30 team slump with men in scoring position."You can go back and make us look as bad as you want to and then I can throw more numbers at you and make us look better," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But yes, lately we have been struggling, but we're facing pretty good pitching. We went through a little bit of a dry spell, but I'll take my chances."Mauer went 3 for 4 with a season-high four RBIs. He entered the game with three hits in 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position."Especially with the performance last night by Nolasco and Correia today, you want to get runs in for your guy and you know I was happy was able to do that today," Mauer said. "Yeah, it's been a little frustrating trying to get runners in, but today we got enough for our guy, which was good."Baltimore's Nelson Cruz has a major league-best 21 RBIs on the road, and 18 in his last nine games overall. He has two doubles in 12 at-bats against Hughes, who is 6-5 with a 5.42 ERA in 17 starts against the Orioles.
Matt Wieters has hit .500 in at-bats to end in a pitch in the upper-third of the zone or higher, the third-highest rate among qualifiers. Phil Hughes has thrown the second-highest percentage of pitches in that zone among qualifiers this season (44 percent).