Joe Mauer tends to pound Chicago White Sox pitching at Target Field, and the opener of this series was no exception.
He goes for another strong performance at the plate Friday night, when the Minnesota Twins go for back-to-back home wins for the first time in a month.
Mauer is a career .319 hitter, and has won three AL batting titles to go with the league MVP award in 2009, but he’s sputtering with a .258 average this year. A home series with the White Sox (35-38), however, may help him get on track.
He had two hits and two RBIs Friday, connecting for a go-ahead double in the eighth of a 4-2 win, ending a season-high five-game skid for Minnesota (33-38). The first baseman is batting .440 with seven doubles and three triples during a 12-game hitting streak at home against Chicago.
Mauer has three RBIs in three games after failing to get one in 18 straight.
"We need some of those guys to get going. That’s huge for us," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Unlike Mauer, Ricky Nolasco (4-5, 5.66 ERA) has struggled greatly against the White Sox, going 0-2 with a 6.63 ERA in three career starts. The veteran right-hander was hit hard in the most recent on opening day, surrendering five runs and 10 hits – two homers – in six innings of a 5-3 loss at Chicago.
Nolasco has given up seven runs in 11 innings while not getting a decision over his last two starts. He had won the previous two by yielding five runs in 13 innings.
The Twins have not won consecutive home games since winning three in a row May 15-17.
Chicago has dropped eight of 12 games, and the starting rotation has a 5.43 ERA.
Hector Noesi (2-5, 5.37) takes the mound trying to bounce back from his performance in Saturday’s 9-1 loss to Kansas City. The right-hander was tagged for five runs – two earned – and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings, matching his shortest start of the season.
The White Sox had won each of his previous three starts, with Noesi going 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA and reaching the sixth inning in each.
"Hector, he’s been good for us and he’s always given us a chance, but we have to help him out on occasion," manager Robin Ventura said. "If we’re not helping him on defense, it’s going to make a difference. That’s a recipe to lose a game in a hurry."
Noesi got the win in his only career start against the Twins on in 2012, yielding one run in seven innings for Seattle. He’s allowed three runs in 3 1-3 innings over two relief outings at Minnesota.
Conor Gillaspie drove in two runs Thursday, and he’s 6 for 16 (.375) with two doubles over the past four games. The third baseman is hitting .349 in 23 road games, getting at least one hit in 21 of them.
He’s 3 for 5 with a double versus Nolasco, while Alejandro De Aza is 3 for 7 with a pair of homers.
De Aza has a .405 average in 12 games, raising his season mark 40 points to .213. The left fielder’s surge includes five hits over the past two games after getting two in the series opener.
He’s 10 for 26 (.385) with four homers, six RBIs and nine runs over his last seven games against Minnesota.