Red Sox Hope to Retake Momentum From Twins in Weekend Series at Target Field

Josh Willingham, Joe MauerWhen the Minnesota Twins visited Fenway Park for the lone time this season for a four-game set starting May 6, the Red Sox were 20-11 and led the American League East by 1 1/2 games despite having just been swept three games in Texas.

The Sox beat the Twins 6-5 in 11 innings in the opener, but Minnesota took the final three games, and things have gone downhill ever since for Boston, which is now looking up at the first-place Yankees. The Twins enter this weekend’s series at Target Field having lost back-to-back series to the Orioles and White Sox to fall to 9-10 at home, 18-19 overall and fourth in the AL Central.

Thanks largely to Joe Mauer (.349), on a 14-game hitting streak, and Justin Morneau (.306), the Twins are a decent-hitting team, but their pitching staff is one of baseball’s worst. It ranks near the bottom in quality starts and opponents’ batting average and is dead last in strikeouts. One big culprit for those numbers is Friday’s starter, former Phillie Vance Worley (1-4, 7.15). He has the worst ERA of any qualified AL pitcher.

Worley has allowed 14 runs on 30 hits over his past three starts (15 innings). The right-hander wasn’t terrible May 6 at Fenway, allowing three runs on nine hits in five innings. He got a no-decision in Boston’s victory. Shane Victorino had the Sox’ lone homer off Worley in that one. Boston will be around a -160 betting favorite Friday behind Clay Buchholz, although he had his worst start of the season in that same game, allowing four runs and seven hits in six innings. Buchholz did strike out nine. The Sox were -200 in that game.

The Twins are scheduled to start lefty Scott Diamond (3-3, 4.08) on Saturday. He gave up a career-high six runs on nine hits (three homers) in 5 2/3 innings last time out against the Orioles to end a two-start winning streak. Diamond was brilliant May 7 at Fenway, beating the Sox and shutting them out on three hits over seven innings. No runner got past second against Diamond, who retired his final 15 batters. No Red Sox batter has more than six career at-bats versus Diamond.

Minnesota starts a lefty again in Sunday’s finale, Venezuelan rookie Pedro Hernandez (2-0, 5.79). He was shelled May 8 by the Sox, allowing six runs and seven hits in two innings in easily the ugliest start of his career. Jonny Gomes and Victorino both homered off Hernandez, with Gomes’ a first-inning grand slam. Hernandez attributed the struggles to a death in the family a few days prior. The Red Sox would lose the game 15-8, however, as both Allen Webster and Felix Doubront were knocked around by Twins batters. Minnesota had season-highs in runs and hits (19).

Twins rookie outfielder Oswaldo Arcia has hurt the Sox this year with seven hits in 13 at-bats, including a homer and three RBIs. Mauer is hitting .444 and Morneau .375 with six RBIs. Ryan Doumit is batting.357 and leads the Twins with two homers off Boston pitching in 2013.

The Red Sox won four of seven meetings last season against Minnesota, including a three-game sweep at Target Field.

This post is presented by Bovada.

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