(AP) — The Minnesota Twins relied solely on the home run to top the Baltimore Orioles in the opening contest of a three-game series, but now facing a red-hot Kevin Gausman, the AL Central contenders may need to seek out a different method of production.
Whatever the route, Brian Dozier figures to again be a focal point Tuesday night when the Twins try for their first consecutive wins in nearly three weeks.
Torii Hunter and Aaron Hicks each hit homers Monday, and Dozier delivered the walk-off two-run shot as Minnesota (44-39) defeated Baltimore 4-2 in 10 innings. The Twins have five home runs in their last three games, accounting for seven of their 11 total runs.
In his last four at home, Dozier has six RBIs and a 1.039 OPS. He leads the AL with 46 extra-base hits and his 17 home runs are the most among second basemen. Those numbers were not enough to include him in the AL’s initial All-Star game roster, although Dozier could still be added courtesy of the Final Vote.
“He’s been the best second baseman in baseball for the last year and a half,” closer Glen Perkins told MLB’s official website. “He’s an All-Star player.”
Dozier’s powerful display could be difficult to replicate against Gausman (1-0, 3.09 ERA), who has not allowed a home run in his last 17 1-3 innings – a streak that dates back to April 19.
The right-hander impressed in his second start of the season, tossing 6 1-3 shutout innings and matching a career high with seven strikeouts in a 2-0 loss to Texas on Thursday. He has similarly excelled in his last four relief appearances, tallying six scoreless innings before landing on the DL May 8 with right shoulder tendinitis.
Gausman has a 2.04 ERA over six starts dating back to Sept. 6, and following his most recent performance, manager Buck Showalter opted to keep the 24-year-old in the rotation and move Bud Norris to the bullpen.
“We like Kevin and we think he’s a guy on a given night that gives us a good chance to win,” Showalter said. “As evidenced by his last outing and a lot of outings, he’s been doing it for a while. Obviously, we are all about this year and today’s game and tomorrow’s game, but you are thinking down the road, too.”
He shouldn’t count on much run support from his teammates, with the Orioles totaling 24 runs – nine coming in one game – during a 2-6 stretch. Baltimore (43-40) is 6 for 53 (.113) with runners in scoring position in that eight-game span after going hitless in eight opportunities Monday.
Monday’s victory was the third straight at home for Minnesota, which has won’t won two in a row overall since a three-game run June 17-19.
Kyle Gibson (6-6, 3.04) looks to continue a string of solid outings for the Twins.
The right-hander tossed four-hit ball over eight innings and struck out seven in a 2-0 win at Kansas City on Thursday. It was the second straight win for Gibson, who has a 2.45 ERA in his past four starts.
“He’s had a couple really good starts after a couple that were less in terms of command and things like that,” manager Paul Molitor said. “But he’s developed a really good mentality about how he goes out there and the way he wants to perform to give our team a chance.”
Joe Mauer is 17 for 40 (.425) with 12 RBIs in his last 11 games against the Orioles.
Updated July 7, 2015
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