Twins vs. Cubs preview
A slumping Minnesota Twins offense showed signs of life in the series opener against the Chicago Cubs, though it may have been a false alarm.
Minnesota will again try to revive its lifeless bats in Sunday's finale versus Chicago at Target Field.
The Twins (37-31) are averaging 2.6 runs over their last 14, down from 4.5 per game prior to that. A 12-hit performance in Friday's 7-2 victory seemed to suggest they were ready to break out, but they took a step back Saturday with just three hits coming after the seventh in a 4-1, 10-inning loss.
Eduardo Nunez's absence from the lineup likely didn't help matters. Nunez sat after taking a pitch on the hands Friday, though manager Paul Molitor said he was available. Nunez is 9 for 26 (.346) with six extra-base hits over his last eight games.
Chicago (36-30) bounced back from a four-hit performance with 12 on Saturday, including a two-run single by Starlin Castro in the 10th. The shortstop gained a measure of redemption after a costly error in Friday's loss.
"Every day is a new day," he said. "Try to keep it going, keep the head up and try to help the team win."
After going deep twice in the opener, Anthony Rizzo had two hits, including his 21st double -- only seven fewer than he had in over twice as many at-bats last year. Rizzo is 6 for 17 with five RBI in four games after going 0 for 17 over the previous four.
Despite the recent offensive issues, the Twins have still managed to win four of seven with strong pitching. The rotation has a 2.54 ERA and six quality starts in that span.
Kyle Gibson (4-5, 3.33 ERA) will try to avoid losing three straight starts for the first time in his career after giving up seven earned runs over 12 innings against Kansas City and St. Louis. Prior to Tuesday's 3-2 road loss to the Cardinals, though, he was 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA in starts immediately following a loss.
The right-hander walked two batters in each of his last two outings, falling to 1-5 when he issues multiple walks.
Gibson is 1-5 with a 5.88 ERA in seven career interleague starts, only defeating Arizona on Sept. 23.
Jake Arrieta (6-5, 3.40) had control issues in his last start, matching a career high with six walks while allowing four runs over five innings of a 6-0 loss to Cleveland. Arrieta had recorded a quality start in five of his previous six outings, walking a total of six in that span.
"Frustrated with myself for the inability to overcome some of the walks and make some pitches," he said.
Arrieta, who threw 112 pitches, had thrown 97 or fewer while completing at least six innings in four consecutive turns.
He went 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA in four starts against Minnesota from 2010-13 while with Baltimore. A fifth road win would be one more than he had all of last year.
Twins prospect Byron Buxton was 0 for 2 on Saturday to fall to 2 for 22 through his first seven big league games, though he drew his first two walks.