When the opportunity has presented itself of late, the Minnesota Twins have been unable to make the most when holding a slim lead atop the tight AL Central.
The Twins hope to remain in first place while trying to hand the struggling New York Yankees a season-high fifth straight loss when the teams continue a three-game set Tuesday night at the Metrodome.Behind a four-hit, eight-inning performance from Glen Perkins, Minnesota (66-52) beat New York 4-0 in Monday's series opener to shut out the Yankees at home for the first time since June 24, 1996.The victory, coupled with Chicago's 5-1 loss to Boston, gives the Twins a one-half game lead over the White Sox in the division. Twice this month, Minnesota has held the same slight advantage over Chicago only to lose its ensuing contest and give up the outright lead."You can't get too high, too low. It's what it is in August and September," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' official Web site. "You're in the pennant race, everything plays out."New York (63-56), meanwhile, fell five games back of Boston in the wild-card race and nine behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay."The problem is we're not winning. Not the teams in front of us," New York manager Joe Girardi said.The Twins, though, won't have an easy task Tuesday while facing Yankees ace Mike Mussina.Mussina (15-7, 3.27 ERA) looks for a third straight victory after allowing eight hits in seven innings of a 3-0 win at Texas on Thursday. The 39-year-old is 5-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his last seven starts and looks for his seventh consecutive winning decision on the road."It seems like every time he pitches, people come over and ask, 'How impressive was Moose today?" New York's Derek Jeter said of Mussina. "He's been our most consistent guy over the course of the year."The right-hander is 22-6 with a 3.06 ERA in 32 career starts versus the Twins and 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two outings this seasons, including eight scoreless innings during a 5-1 win over Minnesota on July 23.On Monday, light-hitting shortstop Adam Everett hit a two-run homer, while Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau each drove in a run for the Twins, who have won 11 of their last 16 games. Mauer has seven hits and four RBIs in his last six games, but he's 0-for-8 lifetime versus Mussina.Rookie Nick Blackburn (9-6, 3.60) takes the ball looking for a third straight victory for the Twins. He allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings of a 7-3 win at Seattle on Wednesday."It definitely wasn't easy," Blackburn said. "I wasn't feeling too good out there. It was ugly."The right-hander will face the Yankees for the third time this season after going 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in his previous two starts.Bobby Abreu had two hits Monday for the Yankees, who are 2-6 on their 10-game road trip and have been outscored 29-12 during the current losing skid."It's frustrating," said Jeter, who went 0-for-4. "We've got to get rolling offensively. That's the bottom line."Abreu is batting .350 (21-for-60) in his last 14 games and .375 (12-for-32) with six RBIs in eight games versus Minnesota in 2008.