The Baltimore Orioles are on the verge of their first home sweep of at least four games against the Minnesota Twins in 48 years, though they'll have to overcome a challenging matchup to accomplish that goal.
The AL East leaders seek their longest home winning streak of the season and 22nd victory in 28 games at Camden Yards on Monday when they try to keep Minnesota's Phil Hughes from earning his 15th victory.Since a surprising three-game sweep at Wrigley Field last weekend, Baltimore (79-56) has bounced back with a 6-1 record on its current homestand following Sunday's 12-8 win.Rookie Caleb Joseph had a career-high four hits, while Nick Markakis and David Lough added three apiece. Nelson Cruz hit his MLB-best 35th homer and J.J. Hardy had a grand slam as the club wrapped up August with a 19-9 mark.The Orioles have averaged 7.3 runs while hitting .328 during a four-game winning streak to increase their division lead to nine games over the New York Yankees."Each time you win, you feel like you put yourself in a position each and every day to be closer to the goal," Joseph said. "The goal is to play in October."Baltimore has a chance to complete its first home series sweep of at least four games from the AL Central-worst Twins (59-77) since taking a five-game set July 1-3, 1966.Hughes (14-9, 3.70 ERA) stands in the way after his bid for a 15th win came crashing down Wednesday. He allowed four runs -- all in Kansas City's six-run eighth inning -- in a 6-1 road loss that ended his four-start winning streak."I think regardless of how the inning transpires, it's the same level of disappointment," Hughes told MLB's official website.The right-hander did not surrender a walk for the third straight outing, extending his streak without more than one to 16 consecutive starts. He also owns a 2.06 ERA in his last five outings and is 8-4 with a 2.94 mark in 13 on the road.The former Yankee gave up two runs over 6 1/3 innings in a 5-2 home win over the Orioles on May 4, but he's 2-2 with a 5.88 ERA in seven career starts at Camden Yards.Newly acquired Alejandro De Aza is 3 for 6 with a homer off Hughes in 2014, but All-Star Adam Jones is batting .182 in 44 career at-bats in the matchup.Jimmy Paredes has stepped up by going 5 for 11 with a homer and two doubles in this series after getting thrust into the lineup with Steve Pearce nursing a strained abdominal muscle.Kevin Gausman (7-6, 3.84) is expected to return after matching the shortest start of his career Wednesday. He was optioned to Gulf Coast following the effort as the club looked to maximize every roster spot until September callups.The right-hander hasn't allowed more than three runs in nine of his last 10 starts, going 4-4 with a 3.83 ERA. However, he'll try to get back on track after giving up three runs over four innings in a 3-1 home loss to Tampa Bay.Minnesota hopes to build on Sunday's performance at the plate as it attempts to avert an eighth loss in nine games. Trevor Plouffe and Danny Santana hit two-run homers for the Twins, who have been outscored 24-11 in this series.Brian Dozier had three hits and is batting .405 during a 10-game hitting streak.
Phil Hughes throws the ball over the middle of the plate horizontally 29.8 percent of the time, the highest rate in the major leagues. The Orioles are slugging .511 with a .821 OPS on such pitches, the second- and third-highest rates in the AL, respectively.