After three straight road starts, Mike Pelfrey might be looking forward to taking the mound at Target Field, an inclination that wasn’t common for the Minnesota starter in his previous two seasons with the Twins.
Not that he wasn’t effective on the recent road stretch, but he seems to have turned a page at his home park entering Tuesday night’s matchup against the Boston Red Sox.
The Twins (26-18) have become a force at Target Field after opening the series with Monday’s 7-2 win, bumping them to an AL-best 15-6 at home. They went 53-28 in the park’s inaugural 2010 season, but were 131-193 from 2011-14 – the second-worst mark in MLB.
Overall, they’ve won 17 of their last 23, which trails only Washington dating to April 30. Strong pitching has been a big part of it with a 3.59 ERA after the club posted a 4.48 mark during a 9-12 start. Over a 7-2 span, no starter has allowed more than three earned runs and the rotation has combined for a 3.00 ERA.
Pelfrey (3-1, 3.00 ERA) yielded a run and five hits in six innings of Wednesday’s 4-3 win in Pittsburgh. He didn’t earn the win and went 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in the road starts.
He didn’t walk a batter for the first time this season, though he hit a batter for a majors-leading seventh time and came down hard on himself for the free passes.
"I think my command this year with hitting guys and walking guys has been kind of ridiculous," Pelfrey said. "I need to do a better job of throwing strikes and hopefully that’ll lead to pitching deeper in the game."
Pelfrey’s work at home has been his best with a 1-0 record and 2.35 ERA in three starts, which has to be a relief after going 2-8 with a 6.41 ERA at Target Field in 18 starts over his first two seasons with the Twins.
The Red Sox (21-24), meanwhile, can’t seem to produce any offense on the road lately with 13 runs in their last seven games.
Former Twin David Ortiz is in a 2-for-23 slump, though he’s a .475 hitter with nine home runs in 15 games at Target Field. Dustin Pedroia gathered two of Boston’s eight hits in the opener and is a career .390 hitter in Minnesota with a 10-game hitting streak.
The Red Sox had won consecutive games entering the series, but they haven’t been able to develop any significant momentum since winning three straight April 9-11.
"The energy in this clubhouse this morning was built upon the last two days, and to go out and have a game like today was very disappointing," manager John Farrell said.
Clay Buchholz will try to even the series and further rein in his season.
Buchholz (2-5, 4.58) lost his last start after allowing three runs — two earned — and five hits in 7 1/3 innings of Thursday’s 3-1 home defeat against Texas, but his numbers continued heading in the right direction.
In his last three starts, the right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.49 ERA and .200 opponent batting average. He entered that stretch with marks of 6.03 and .303.
"It’s a little bit easier whenever you have your pitches working," Buchholz said. "It’s the times that you go through whenever you’ve got one or two pitches working and you’ve got to filter out the other ones to try and get back."
In four career starts in Minnesota, he’s 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA, with Joe Mauer (7 for 16) and Kurt Suzuki (8 for 15) contributing to the damage.