Major League Baseball
Twins-Orioles Preview
Major League Baseball

Twins-Orioles Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 4:58 p.m. ET

Timely hitting played a key role in Minnesota's best finish in five years last season.

It's nowhere to be found through the Twins' first two games in 2016.

They'll try to string some hits together with runners in scoring position Thursday night as they close a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

The Twins are trying to avoid their second consecutive 0-3 start. Though they started 1-6 last year, they eventually caught fire in May, going 20-7 en route to their first winning season since 2010.


Much of their success, however, was predicated on hitting with runners in scoring position. Their .280 batting average in those situations ranked third behind only Toronto and Kansas City.

Minnesota is 1 for 12 with runners on second or third through two losses to Baltimore, falling 4-2 Wednesday after a 3-2 defeat on opening day.

"When they had runners on they got them across and we didn't," manager Paul Molitor said. "That's what it boils down to."

Joe Mauer led the way for Minnesota in those situations in 2015, hitting .352 to rank 11th in the majors. However, he struck out with Eduardo Escobar on third base to end Wednesday's game, his second failure in as many of those situations on the night. He was 0 for 3 overall to snap an 11-game hitting streak against Baltimore, though he recorded a sacrifice fly.

Strikeouts have been a major issue for the Twins with 23 punch outs already. They averaged 7.8 per game last year.

Mauer could be in for another tough night against Baltimore starter Ubaldo Jimenez. He's only 1 for 14 against the right-hander, and that .071 average is tied for Mauer's second-lowest of the 103 pitchers against whom he's had at least 15 plate appearances.

Jimenez, who went 12-10 with a 4.11 ERA for the Orioles last season, is 4-3 with a 2.22 ERA in five career starts against Minnesota, striking out 57 over 52 2-3 innings. He threw five scoreless in last year's only matchup.

Baltimore, seeking its third 3-0 start in six years, is enjoying opportunistic hitting, going 6 for 18 with runners in scoring position.

Chris Davis homered Wednesday, his first after hitting an MLB-best 47 in 2015, and his ninth in his last 17 home games. Davis is the franchise's newly minted highest-paid player ever after signing a $161 million deal in the offseason.

"You always wonder how things like that are going to affect people, but early on in the spring you could tell he was the right kind of comfortable," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's been in a good place since he got to spring training. He just seems to be in a good rhythm about his life. I'm real proud of him."

In 27 career at-bats versus Minnesota starter Phil Hughes, Davis has one home run.

Hughes' second season with the Twins - in which he went 11-9 with a 4.40 ERA - suggested the first - 16-10 with a career-best 3.52 mark - may have been an abnormality. Limiting home runs was a key part of his success in 2014, but he gave up a career-worst 1.68 per nine innings last year.

Baltimore outfielder Joey Rickard continued to impress in his second major league game, going 2 for 3 with his first RBI after a 2-for-4 performance Monday.

The Twins had won eight straight meetings with Baltimore before dropping the last two.


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