Twins' Diamond takes ball vs. Cubs

Canadian-born lefty Scott Diamond can continue a breakout second season today when the red-hot Minnesota Twins host the skidding Chicago Cubs in the second of three interleague games at Target Field.

Diamond, signed by Atlanta in 2007 as a free agent out of the State University of New York at Binghamton, headed to the Twins in the Rule 5 player draft in December 2010 and debuted in the majors with seven starts in 2011, winning one of six decisions with a 5.08 earned run average.

He began 2012 with six starts at Triple-A Rochester of the International League and won four of five decisions before heading to the big-league club for his initial start on May 8 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Diamond tossed seven scoreless innings against the Angels and seven more against the Toronto Blue Jays for two straight victories, then made it three straight against Milwaukee before finally losing, 6-0, against the Chicago White Sox on May 23.

He's 1-0 with a no-decision in two starts since and has given up just eight earned runs on 38 2/3 combined innings while walking four batters and striking out 23.

Diamond has pitched at least six innings in all but one start and gave up three earned runs or less in all of them, including three starts where he gave up no earned runs.

He has never faced the Cubs.

For Chicago, right-hander Jeff Samardzija continues a spring in which he's been one of the team's few bright spots.

The former Notre Dame football star has a team-high five wins with a 3.13 ERA in 11 starts and has pitched in seven of the team's 19 victories overall.

His most recent win came May 29 against San Diego and he followed up with a good effort in a no-decision at San Francisco, where he allowed two runs in five innings in a game the Cubs ultimately lost, 3-2.

Samardzija, who is 2-2 in six road starts this season, has never faced the Twins.

On Friday, Josh Willingham ripped a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift the Twins to an 8-7 victory.

After Justin Morneau tied the game in the ninth with an RBI triple, Darin Mastroianni worked a leadoff walk in the 10th, moved to second on a bunt from Ben Revere and reached third on Jamey Carroll's swinging bunt single. Willingham then stepped to the plate and scorched a Shawn Camp (2-3) sinker down the third-base line to plate Mastroianni and give the Twins their fifth win in their last six tries.

Matt Capps (1-3) got the win after tossing a scoreless top of the 10th. Trevor Plouffe homered in the fourth and Ryan Doumit added a solo shot that gave the Twins a 6-5 lead in the seventh.

Alfonso Soriano belted two home runs, including a mammoth two-run blast that gave the Cubs a brief 7-6 lead in the eighth. Starlin Castro added a two-run shot in defeat as the Cubs dropped their third straight contest.

The interleague series is even at 11 wins apiece but Minnesota has won six of the last seven games, including a three-game sweep at home in 2006 and two of three at Wrigley Field in 2009.