Braves-Twins Preview

The Minnesota Twins have won 11 of their last 12 interleague

series, and with Kevin Slowey on the mound Sunday, the team feels

good about its chances of taking the decisive game from the

visiting Atlanta Braves.

The Twins’ red-hot right-hander may not have much margin for

error, however, as the two first-place clubs finish a tightly

contested three-game set.

Minnesota (36-26) has the best record of any major league team

in interleague play since the start of 2008, going 29-12 in that

stretch despite Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Braves.

Atlanta lost 2-1 on Friday, but won the middle game after

scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning on Brooks

Conrad’s successful squeeze.

“That’s National League baseball at its finest,” Braves pitcher

Derek Lowe said.

Although the series is being played at Target Field, a

lower-scoring NL style has prevailed, with each team totaling four

runs and 14 hits. Another crisp game may take place with Slowey on

the mound.

Slowey (7-3, 3.45 ERA) is 3-0 in his last five starts, allowing

two runs over 20 2-3 innings spanning his last three outings. He

gave up three hits without issuing a walk in seven scoreless

innings during a 7-3 win over Kansas City on Tuesday.

“I’m being honest with you. … Every start is its own

challenge,” Slowey said. “There’s no reason to combine starts and

say, ‘I’ve had two good ones. This is important to have another

good one.'”

In 12 career interleague starts, Slowey is 7-2 with a 3.04 ERA.

The first was a win over the Braves on June 12, 2007.

This will be Kris Medlen’s first start against an AL opponent as

the right-hander tries to bounce back from his shakiest outing

since entering the rotation last month.

Medlen (3-1, 3.21) gave up four runs – including three home runs

– in five innings Tuesday at Arizona, although the Braves came back

to win 7-5. Medlen left the game with a strained left shoulder that

he injured on a slide while running the bases.

“It kind of felt weird coming out, because it was my left arm,”

Medlen said, “but it hurt at the time.”

He’ll try to help Atlanta (36-27) to its first back-to-back

victories since a nine-game winning streak from May 26-June 3. A

win would also give the Braves their first series victory in an AL

park in their last five tries.

It’s unclear if the Braves will have Chipper Jones in the lineup

after the veteran third baseman was scratched Saturday due to a

lingering finger injury. Conrad filled in with two hits and two

RBIs.

Standout rookie Jason Heyward, who had been dealing with a thumb

injury, is 0 for 8 in this series and 8 for 54 (.148) with 20

strikeouts in his last 13 games.

“As much talent as he has, we still have to remember he is 20

years old,” hitting coach Terry Pendleton told the Braves’ official

website. “Other teams are going to make adjustments, and he’s got

to make adjustments.”