(AP) — Trying to build on their best offensive showing of the season, the Minnesota Twins’ chances at returning to .500 should improve with Tommy Milone on the mound.
Milone looks to continue his success against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night in this series between AL wild-card contenders.
Minnesota (60-61) has lost 21 of its past 31 games – 13 of 16 on the road – but got this four-game set off to a good start Thursday, pounding out 18 hits in a 15-2 victory.
The win moved the Twins within three games of the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild-card spot, with the Orioles (62-58) one-half game back and Texas 1 1/2 off the pace.
Giving Milone (6-3, 3.65 ERA) the ball against Baltimore figures to help Minnesota in its attempt at winning two straight road games for the first time since June 3 and 4. The left-hander is 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA in four career starts against the Orioles, allowing one run in seven innings of a 5-3 win July 8.
Milone, though, went 0-2 with a 7.98 ERA over his next three starts before landing on the disabled list with a strained left elbow.
He was limited to 76 pitches in his return Sunday, yielding one run and three hits in five innings of a 4-1 win over Cleveland. He capped the outing by getting Yan Gomes to chase a curveball in the dirt after issuing a walk to load the bases.
“Really, this year the curveball has been a pitch I’ve relied on a lot,” Milone told MLB’s official website. “Before the last couple years, it’s probably been the changeup. I kind of adjusted my grip a little bit, holding a little deeper in my hand. It’s been more consistent.”
The Twins swept the three-game series in July and have won five straight against the Orioles, who are 5-2 during this 10-game homestand.
There wasn’t much offense for Baltimore on Thursday, but Chris Davis had two hits and is batting .370 with three homers, six RBIs and seven runs over the past seven games. He’s a .375 hitter with 12 RBIs over his last 11 matchups with Minnesota.
Davis is also 4 for 11 with two homers and a double off Milone, while Manny Machado is 5 for 11 with a solo shot.
Wei-Yin Chen (7-6, 3.20) has an opportunity to win three consecutive starts for the first time this year after allowing three runs over 13 1-3 innings in his last two. He surrendered two runs over six innings and struck out seven in Sunday’s 18-2 win over Oakland.
Chen is 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA in five career starts against Minnesota. He gave up solo homers to Torii Hunter and Aaron Hicks over seven innings in a 4-2 loss in 10 on July 6.
He’s struggled against Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier, who are a combined 10 for 27 (.370) off him.
Chen will try to slow down rookie Eddie Rosario, Kurt Suzuki and Eduardo Escobar, who had three hits and two RBIs apiece Thursday.
Rosario is 7 for 18 and Suzuki is 7 for 17 with five RBIs over the past four games while Escobar is 6 for 13 with a homer and two doubles in the last three.
Suzuki is batting .429 in his last seven games versus Baltimore.
Minnesota hasn’t won five straight against the Orioles in a single season since taking all seven meetings in 2007.