The Minnesota Twins swept a four-game home series against the Detroit Tigers just before the All-Star break.
The same teams will match up again in a four-game series at Detroit after the break, beginning with a day-night doubleheader on Friday.
The finale of last weekend’s series was a wild 12-9, 10-inning game capped by Jorge Polanco’s three-run, walk-off homer. Minnesota otherwise has struggled this season but is 7-2 against its American League Central Division rival.
“You don’t normally get to go into the All-Star break on such a high note,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said afterward. “And I think it’s a great way for our guys to spend the next four days. I think the positive nature of the way we’re playing right now is that it’s actually still a good time to take a break so we can acknowledge it, feel it, and then come back ready to go.”
In the last two games, the Twins erased four-run deficits during the late innings. They also recovered from a ninth-inning grand slam by Detroit catcher Jake Rogers in Sunday’s roller-coaster contest.
“That was a real character game,” Baldelli said. “You learn a little bit about yourself, and you deal with a lot. There were a ton of different things that came up in that game.”
The sweep allowed the Twins to pull into a virtual tie with the Tigers for third place in the Central standings. They’re both 11 games under .500.
It’s uncertain who will pitch the nightcap for Minnesota on Friday, but Charlie Barnes will make his major league debut in the opener.
The 25-year-old left-hander is being called up from the St. Paul Saints after posting a 5-2 record and 3.88 ERA at the Triple-A level. He has 50 strikeouts in 58 innings.
Jose Urena (2-8, 6.43 ERA) is scheduled to start the opener for Detroit, and manager A.J. Hinch said he plans to go with a bullpen game in the nightcap.
Urena has endured a disastrous stretch in which he’s allowed 30 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings in his past six outings. He hasn’t pitched since July 6, when he gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings at Texas.
In two starts against Minnesota this season, he’s 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA.
Rogers vowed before the break that this series will be different from his team’s lost weekend in Minneapolis.
“We’re going to go to the break and forget about it,” he said. “We’re going to come back and punch them first and get some wins.”
Hinch said he believes the key to success for his team in the second half will be improved defense. The Tigers rank at or near the bottom of several defensive metrics, with their up-the-middle players being especially subpar.
“When you take a step back and look at it, we’ve got to improve our defense,” Hinch said. “That’s the thing that I’m going to continue to harp on. We can be a good defensive team, we can get better in certain areas.”
In the short run, the Tigers have to find ways to limit Polanco. The Minnesota infielder had nine of his 43 RBIs this season during last week’s four-game series.
–Field Level Media