The Texas Rangers have used dominant back-to-back outings from rookie starters to take the first two of a four-game set from the Minnesota Twins, who have seen their top sluggers neutralized.
Both teams send left-handers to the mound Saturday at Target Field as Texas aims for its eighth win in nine tries while Minnesota tries to snap a three-game skid.
After a 2-1 win in the opener Thursday, Texas (16-7) followed that with a 4-3 victory Friday. While the offense produced just enough runs to scrape by both times, it was strong showings from first-year pitchers Nick Tepesch, who gave up one run in 6-2/3 innings Thursday, and Justin Grimm, who threw seven shutout innings Friday, leading the way.
Grimm and Tepesch are in the rotation primarily only because of injuries to Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison.
“They know they have the potential to get guys out and that’s what they’re doing,” said Elvis Andrus, who was 2 for 5 and one of five Rangers to record a double. “We trust in every guy who comes here and pitches.”
The Rangers will give the ball to Derek Holland (1-1, 3.25 ERA) as they seek their 12th win over the Twins in 14 games.
Holland carried a 1.64 ERA into Monday’s road start against the Angels, but surrendered six runs on six hits in 5-2/3 innings. He issued four walks after totaling that number in his first three outings.
The 26-year-old will try to keep the big bats of the Twins (9-10) at bay. The combination of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham is 5 for 23 (.217) to start the series, with Mauer going hitless in both games. It’s just the second time he’s gone hitless in consecutive games and he’s 2 for 17 over his last five after starting the season 24 for 61 (.393).
Holland is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA versus Minnesota, with those three batters only 8 of 34 (.235) against him.
The Twins’ only runs the last two games have come from homers — a solo shot by Willingham Thursday and a three-run shot from rookie Oswaldo Arcia off Joe Nathan on Friday. The Twins hit .320 with runners in scoring position during a five-game winning streak but are 5 of 24 (.208) in such situations during their three-game skid.
“Hopefully we’ll heat up here as an offense,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve been a little inconsistent.”
Nelson Cruz stayed hot for the Rangers, driving in a run for the sixth straight contest. Cruz is 13 of 33 (.394) over his last nine games with 14 RBI.
He’ll dig in against Pedro Hernandez (0-0, 3.48), who makes his second start for the Twins. He gave up three runs in five innings in his first start April 7 and has allowed one run over 5-1/3 innings of relief since. The long drought between starts is due to how the Twins’ schedule has unfolded with four postponements.
“Ultimately things happen,” Gardenhire told the team’s official website. “He’ll get innings in, he’ll get to pitch. We’ve got to find innings for him.”