After ending a tough road trip on a positive note, the Minnesota Twins return home to begin a three-game series with the Texas Rangers, hoping to make a push in the AL Central standings.
Minnesota (60-60) is just 5-9 this month and is coming off a 3-6 road trip. Despite the slump, the Twins have fallen only a half-game further out of first place from where they were Aug. 1 thanks to similar struggles by the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians.Minnesota is in third place in the Central, 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers, and six games behind the second-place Indians.The Twins are hoping they have put their offensive woes behind them as they begin this series. Minnesota outscored the Seattle Mariners 17-4 to win the final two games of a three-game set after a 4-3 loss on Monday.The Twins began the series with the Mariners having been held to three or fewer runs in 10 of their previous 11 games. They won a series for the first time since taking two of three against the Kansas City Royals from July 30-Aug. 1.Torii Hunter, who hit a grand slam in a 6-1 win Wednesday, still believes Minnesota can threaten Detroit and Cleveland despite its recent slump. The Twins rallied from 9 1/2 back last Aug. 8 to overtake the Tigers for the division title on the season's final day."Oh, yeah, right about this time last year we were six, seven games back," Hunter said. "One hundred and sixty-two games. Patience is a virtue."The Twins will hand the ball on Friday to Carlos Silva (9-12, 4.30 ERA), who has alternated between wins and losses in his last four decisions, and is coming off a frustrating start last Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels.Silva allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings, but Minnesota couldn't hold a two-run lead and went on to lose 4-3. Silva left after 88 pitches because of a cramp in his hamstring."He was fantastic there until the end," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' official Web site. "A little bit of a hamstring cramping up on him at the end, but he got through that. Unfortunately, we couldn't hold a lead for a guy that pitched that good."The right-hander is 2-4 with a 5.49 ERA in seven starts against the Rangers (53-67). He allowed seven runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings against them on May 21 in a 14-4 loss in Arlington.Like Silva, Kason Gabbard (5-1, 3.83) is also coming off an outing shortened by an injury. Gabbard left Texas' game on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays after lasting just 1 1-3 innings. The Rangers said he was suffering from a stiff left forearm, a concern since he's had four surgeries on his arm in the past.This will be the left-hander's fourth start since being traded from the Boston Red Sox. He is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts with his new team, and Gabbard has never faced the Twins.The Rangers had their three-game winning streak end Thursday with a 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Reliever Willie Eyre took the loss by giving up four runs in the eighth inning.