(Updated: UPDATES Minnesota’s standing in wild card race in third sentence FIXES Joe Mauer to 1B in walk-offs)
After a dismal performance against a fellow wild-card contender, the Minnesota Twins hope for a better showing versus one of the American League’s worst teams when they visit the Detroit Tigers on Thursday for the opener of a four-game series. The Twins wasted an opportunity to get closer to the wild-card leading New York Yankees, dropping three straight games in the Bronx - capped by Wednesday’s 11-3 defeat.
The sweep left Minnesota seven games behind the Yankees and clinging to a 1 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the race for the AL’s final playoff spot. The Twins scored the game’s first three runs Wednesday before Bartolo Colon and the bullpen faltered as they fell for the fifth time in six games overall. The Tigers also suffered a sweep to begin the week by dropping all three against the Oakland Athletics at home, and they are 4-16 in September. Jordan Zimmermann is struggling through the worst season of his career and is expected to return from a neck injury to make the start for Detroit opposite Minnesota lefty Adalberto Mejia.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins LH Adalberto Mejia (4-6, 4.62 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Jordan Zimmermann (8-12, 6.18)
Mejia returned from a biceps strain to start Saturday against Toronto, allowing three runs in three innings and suffering the loss. He has completed only 10 total innings over his last three starts while giving up 19 hits and four walks. The 24-year-old has 11 strikeouts in seven frames over two meetings with the Tigers, but he’s also given up 10 hits and five walks in that span.
Zimmermann established a career high with his 12th loss in his last visit to the mound, surrendering five runs and a season-high 12 hits in five frames against Cleveland before hitting the disabled list. He has gone five outings in a row without recording a quality start, during which his ERA is an unsightly 11.03. The Twins are batting .404 in three games against Zimmermann this year, scoring 17 runs in 11 2/3 innings.
1. Tigers RF Nick Castellanos is hitting .418 during his career-best 17-game hitting streak.
2. Twins 1B Joe Mauer needs two runs to tie Hall of Famer Rod Carew (950) for third on the franchise’s all-time list.
3. This is the final home series for Detroit. The teams conclude the regular season with three more meetings in Minnesota.
PREDICTION: Twins 7, Tigers 5