Twins vs. Rangers preview
While a recent surge has the Texas Rangers still in playoff contention, the Minnesota Twins appear on the way to falling out of the AL wild-card race.
Losers of seven of eight, the sagging Twins hope a return to Target Field brings a reversal of fortune as they open an important three-game series with the Rangers on Tuesday night.
Minnesota (55-56) owned a four-game lead atop the wild-card standings at the All-Star break but has floundered since, going an AL-worst 6-16 to fall below .500 for the first time since May 1. Poor pitching has contributed to the downfall, as the Twins have posted a 7.35 ERA while dropping 12 of 15.
Twins starters produced a 13.83 ERA during a 1-6 trip that ended with Sunday's 8-1 defeat to Cleveland, one day after the Indians had 17 runs and 19 hits. The Twins have allowed at least eight runs in five consecutive games.
"If you're out there and you're seeing the way guys are teeing off on you, you'd think you would try to at least make them a little more uncomfortable. I think we could probably improve on that," manager Paul Molitor told MLB's official website.
Kyle Gibson (8-9, 3.78 ERA) has been one of the primary culprits to the pitching problems. The right-hander is 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA in four starts following the break, allowing a career high-tying eight runs in 4 2/3 innings in Thursday's 9-3 loss at Toronto.
Gibson had won four straight starts to end the first half and enjoyed great success in two meetings with Texas in 2014. After firing six scoreless innings in a no decision at Target Field last May, he held the Rangers to two runs through eight in a road win a month later.
Elvis Andrus and Shin-soo Choo are both 1 for 7 against Gibson, though Josh Hamilton is 2 for 4.
Texas (55-55), which sits a half-game in front of the Twins, climbed back into the playoff hunt with a 7-1 stretch prior to losing two of three in Seattle. The Rangers left 10 on base and went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position during Sunday's 4-2 defeat, squandering an early lead on Felix Hernandez and a complete game from Colby Lewis.
"We seemed to be on Hernandez early but we let it get away in the middle innings," manager Jeff Banister told MLB's official website.
Yovani Gallardo (8-9, 3.47) takes the mound seeking to win consecutive starts for the first time since late May. He halted a six-start winless stretch by allowing three runs in five innings of a 4-3 triumph over Houston on Aug. 4.
Gallardo, who's 1-1 with an 8.53 ERA in four post-break outings, last beat the Twins on June 25, 2011. He's 0-2 in four meetings since, including a loss with Milwaukee last June in which the right-hander was reached for six runs in five innings.
Trevor Plouffe is 3 for 7 with two homers off Gallardo, who's also had trouble facing Brian Dozier (5 for 7 with a home run) and Joe Mauer (6 for 12).
The Rangers are 18-9 against Minnesota, including an 8-3 mark at Target Field, since 2012. Texas took two of three in Arlington from June 12-14.