Twins-Orioles Preview

Key absences have been a major blow to the Minnesota Twins, but

missing two MVPs would be a difficult hurdle for any team to

overcome.

The Baltimore Orioles would like to continue capitalizing on the

short-handed Twins.

Minnesota will try to withstand another potential game without

three key contributors as it seeks a split of this four-game series

against the Orioles at Camden Yards on Thursday night.

The Twins (6-12) could be without Justin Morneau and Delmon

Young again, while 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer is on the disabled list

with a leg injury.

Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP, has missed four straight games with

the flu, while Young has missed the past two due to the

illness.

The absences have left the Twins without three of their top

hitters, and it’s unclear when they’ll return.

With its regular 3-4-5 hitters missing, Minnesota not

surprisingly has struggled to generate offense in losing the last

two games at Baltimore (8-9). The club was limited to seven hits in

a 5-4 loss Wednesday after getting six in an 11-0 defeat the

previous night.

The Twins, who have hit a major league-low six homers, are the

only team that has not yet scored more than five runs in a game

this season.

“We’re not playing awful baseball,” starter Nick Blackburn said.

“A couple breaks here and there and things would be different.

Right now we’re missing a couple of pretty good guys from our

lineup, but I don’t think anyone has given up.”

Healthy or not, Morneau may convince manager Ron Gardenhire to

use him after he attempted to muster up enough strength for a late

at-bat Wednesday.

“He was out there at the end of the game telling me that if we

get a chance to win, he could do it,” Gardenhire said. “It was

scary. He wanted to give it a shot.”

Morneau, hitting .208 with three RBIs, is 4 for 12 with a double

and two homers against Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore’s scheduled

starter.

Guthrie (1-2, 3.32 ERA), though, has won three straight starts

against the Twins behind a 2.61 ERA, limiting them to a .218

batting average.

The right-hander would like to carry that success into 2011

after struggling in Saturday’s 8-3 loss at Cleveland. He was tagged

for six runs and 10 hits in five innings after yielding one run in

14 innings over his first two starts of the season.

While Guthrie has thrived against Minnesota, Scott Baker (0-2,

4.50) has done the same versus Baltimore.

Baker is 5-0 with a 2.53 ERA in seven starts against the

Orioles, winning the last four with a 1.61 ERA.

The right-hander could use some help from his teammates to keep

that streak intact. He’s received six total runs of support through

three starts and watched the bullpen squander his latest effort. He

allowed one run in seven innings before Matt Capps and Joe Nathan

gave up three runs in the final two innings of a 4-3 loss at Tampa

Bay on Saturday.

“I still trust these guys,” Baker told the team’s official

website.

He’ll have to contend with Vladimir Guerrero and Matt Wieters,

who have helped the Orioles win two in a row following an

eight-game skid.

Guerrero has four hits in this series with two homers and four

RBIs. He is batting .355 with four homers and nine RBIs over his

last eight meetings with Minnesota.

Wieters is 5 for 12 with two homers and seven RBIs over his last

four games after going 2 for 23 in the previous seven. He is 6 for

6 with 10 RBIs with runners in scoring position this season.