Twins-Athletics Preview

The Minnesota Twins are on the verge of matching their longest

win streak of a trying season, but they may have to produce a few

more runs to accomplish that feat.

That may not be easy as they’ll face surprising Tyson Ross in

Thursday’s finale of a two-game set with the Oakland Athletics.

Despite averaging 2.3 runs in its last six games, Minnesota

(14-27) managed to record consecutive wins for the fourth time this

season with a 4-3 victory in 10 innings Wednesday in Oakland.

Trevor Plouffe went 2 for 4 with a career-high three RBIs,

including the go-ahead sacrifice fly.

“As easy as you lose games you can win games,” Plouffe said.

The Twins, hitting .207 over their last 11 contests, previously

won three in a row May 3-6 and matching that streak might prove

tough against Ross, who is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his last four

starts. He gave up two runs and six hits over a career-high 7 1-3

innings in Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

“He’s learning how to pitch,” catcher Kurt Suzuki told the

team’s website. “We all knew he had great stuff and now he’s not

trying to go too fast. He’s slowing himself down. Quality location,

making quality pitches and good things happen.”

Ross (3-2, 2.50 ERA), who has never started against Minnesota,

joined the A’s rotation after Dallas Braden needed season-ending

surgery on his left shoulder.

“We’ll miss Dallas for sure,” reliever Brad Ziegler said. “At

the same time, I feel like we haven’t missed a beat with Tyson.

Everybody always talks about in basketball that when one guy goes

down, it’s not like you’re playing four on five. Somebody else

comes in, and that’s the same case here.”

Like Ross, Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn (2-4, 3.70) has also

thrived lately, going 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his last three

starts

Blackburn pitched a season-high 7 2-3 innings Saturday against

Toronto and retired 17 straight during one stretch of that game.

However, he also gave up a tying triple to one of the final batters

he faced.

“That kind of spoils what would’ve been a pretty good outing,”

he said. “I still feel pretty good. I made some pretty good pitches

and all that stuff, but the fact that it ended that way is still

pretty frustrating.”

Blackburn might not have much better luck Thursday as he’s 0-4

with a 7.99 ERA in last five starts against Oakland. The

right-hander, though, gave up an unearned run and six hits during a

1-0 defeat at Target Field on April 9.

He might catch a break in this matchup with Coco Crisp possibly

out of the lineup due to personal reasons. The A’s outfielder, who

is 8 for 16 in his last four games, is 5 for 11 in his career

against Blackburn.

“I’m not positive if he’ll be back tomorrow, but hopeful,”

manager Bob Geren said.

Delmon Young has the Twins’ only hit against Ross, but he is

2-for-17 with 10 strikeouts since returning from the disabled list.

He’s also been held out of the lineup for consecutive days but

might return Thursday.

“Delmon was scuffling along, and this gives him a chance to take

(batting practice) and get out there and relax a little bit and

watch a couple (games),” manager Ron Gardenhire told the team’s

website. “So we’ll let him get back in there tomorrow.”