MINNEAPOLIS — Good news is hard to come by for the Minnesota Twins these days, with the team off to a historically bad start (16-40) and on pace for more than 100 losses.
So the fact that they won't have to face Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez during their upcoming series at Target Field is a small victory.
Coming off a 1-0 home win over the New York Mets on Sunday in which he struck out a career-high 14 batters, Fernandez will give way to left-hander Adam Conley (3-3, 3.72 ERA), left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (3-2, 4.25 ERA) and right-hander Tom Koehler (3-6, 4.50 ERA) to face Minnesota in a three-game series which starts on Tuesday evening.
It's the beginning of a nine-game road swing for the Marlins, who will also visit Arizona and San Diego for three games in each place before their next home game.
The Marlins (30-27) are in the thick of the fight in the National League East, sitting four games behind the Washington Nationals in third place as of Monday, despite losing two of three to the Mets last weekend in Miami.
They're getting help offensively and defensively from Ichiro Suzuki, who continues his steady march toward 3,000 hits (he has 2,966 entering the series) and continues to chase down balls, 42-year-old legs and all.
On Sunday Ichiro helped preserve Fernandez's shutout in the fifth inning, making a fully extended running catch of a ball that the Mets' Michael Conforto blasted to the warning track.
“He told me it was a routine catch,” said Fernandez, with a laugh.
In Minnesota, the summer sun is shining, but the baseball picture is much less bright.
The Twins opened a recent four-game home series with the Tampa Bay Rays by winning the opener and providing some optimism, but then slid back into recent patterns, losing three in a row.
Minnesota will send left-hander Pat Dean (1-2, 4.15 ERA) to the mound to face the Marlins on Tuesday, followed by right-handers Ricky Nolasco (2-4, 4.93 ERA) and Ervin Santana (1-5, 4.50 ERA) on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
Since it opened in 2010, Target Field has never been known as an overly power-friendly park, but the Marlins may have opportunities to test the fences if recent trends hold.
Sunday's loss to the Rays was the second consecutive game in which Minnesota has allowed four home runs.
But the Twins hit three homers of their own, holding a 4-1 lead at one point before Tampa Bay rallied for a 7-5 win.
With closer Glen Perkins still on injured reserve, the role has been handed to Kevin Jepsen, who took the loss on Sunday and looks to bounce back versus the Marlins.
“I know where I need to get to,” Jepsen said. “Stuff-wise, it's coming, the velocity's coming. Mechanically, getting out there, I feel great as far as stuff's going. Now it's just putting it together.”
The Twins have won nine home games this season, which is worst in the American League. Only the Atlanta Braves, with six home wins, have a worse record in their own park.