(Updated: UPDATES the third sentence)
Even in the cluttered American League wild-card picture in which most of the teams chasing them are no better than .500, the Minnesota Twins understand they have little margin for error if they want to make the postseason for the first time since 2010. The Twins will try to increase their one-game cushion in the wild-card race Tuesday when they begin a six-game homestand with the first of two against the San Diego Padres.
Minnesota, which returns home after going 3-4 on a road trip through Tampa Bay and Kansas City, dropped its final two games against the Royals over the weekend and finds itself holding off six teams within four games of the second and final AL wild-card spot entering Monday’s contests. The schedule might be able to give the Twins some help in that regard, as San Diego and Toronto - the two teams they will host this week - are a combined 25 games under .500 after this weekend’s action. The Padres (65-79) are playing better baseball than their overall record might suggest, however, following a near sweep of Arizona on the road over the weekend after the Diamondbacks entered that series winners of 13 in a row. San Diego watched its modest three-game winning streak snapped in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to fall to 6-5 in September.
TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, FSN San Diego, FSN North (Minnesota)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Padres LH Travis Wood (3-5, 6.00 ERA) vs. Twins RH Kyle Gibson (9-10, 5.19)
Wood endured his worst outing in eight tries last Tuesday since joining the Padres around the non-waiver trade deadline, surrendering seven runs (six earned) on seven hits - including two homers - in only two frames. The 30-year-old has particularly struggled on the road with his new team, going 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in three such outings. Wood has seen the Twins five times in 2017, including his only start against them while with Kansas City on July 2 in which he allowed two runs over four innings.
Gibson posted his fourth consecutive quality start Thursday at Kansas City but settled for a no-decision instead of a win for the first time over that stretch, permitting two runs on eight hits across seven innings. After going 0-2 over his previous three turns and logging no more than 5 1/3 innings in any of them, the Indiana native is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA during his hot streak. Gibson has never faced the Padres but fared poorly in 13 career interleague starts, going 3-8 with a 5.68 ERA.
1. Only six of the Twins’ remaining 19 games are against clubs with winning records.
2. San Diego LHP Brad Hand is six strikeouts shy of joining Trevor Hoffman (1996-97) as the only relievers in team history record back-to-back 100-strikeout seasons.
3. Minnesota 2B Brian Dozier needs one more homer to become the fifth different Twin since 1961 to record 30 in consecutive seasons.
PREDICTION: Twins 5, Padres 4